[Editor’s note: This story was picked up by Jeanna Brynner of LiveScience.com on April 24 and published on MSNBC. Click here to view the MSNBC report.]

Like a scene from Alien, the scaly, razor-sharp claw burst right out of the victim’s bloody chest. Only this was real. It could be why mom said don’t wolf your food.

Here’s the grim story, from Julia Di Sieno of the Animal Rescue Team.

“Sunday, March 30, 2008, was a busy day for Animal Rescue Team,” Di Sieno said. “We landed a night heron that was ill, from Waller Park in Santa Maria. While driving to the vet with the sick bird, I noticed a bird of prey on the side of Highway 246. I turned the car around to pick up this poor bird, who died in my hands at the vet’s (Dr. George Bertram at Solvang Veterinary Hospital, 2025 Mission Drive).

“Upon examination, we noticed that the Sharp-shinned hawk died from his last meal, a bird that broke through the hawk’s crop. As you can see, this is very unusual — note the eaten bird’s leg hanging outside of the Sharp-shin’s chest! The bird that came out of the crop/chest was a small type, and most of his body was digested. This is the first time Dr. Bertram has seen anything like this.

“While we can’t save all of them, we sure did try. The night heron seems to be doing fine, and will be transported to the seabird pond in Santa Barbara.

“In order to move forward with the Animal Rescue Team mission we have two immediate needs,” Di Sieno said. “A dedicated animal ambulance for rescues ($30,000), and construction of a new fawn facility ($20,000).” Donations are welcome.

Di Sieno has worked with wildlife for more than 20 years. The Animal Rescue Team offers a standing $2,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone abusing animals.

Meanwhile, the nonprofit organization has scheduled a July 12 fund-raiser at Koehler Winery, 5360 Foxen Canyon Road.

“Koehler Winery is sponsoring all the wine, use of their home, and a live auction trip to an opera in Chicago,” Di Sieno said. “We will be selling tickets in May at $400 a couple.”

Click here for more information or call 805.896.1859.

Bill Etling is a Santa Ynez Valley free-lance writer.