As the world's first refuge for birds of prey, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary has a dramatic history that started during the Great Depression with amateur ornithologist Richard Pough. In 1929, Pennsylvania's Game Commission placed a $5 price tag on the goshawk's head—a grand sum at the time. Two years later, while Pough was a recent college graduate living in Philadelphia, he became one of a growing number of conservationists opposed to the widespread movement to eradicate wildlife predators, including predatory birds.
Pough heard of the place locals called "Hawk Mountain" and decided to visit. There he saw gunners stationed, shooting hundreds of passing hawks for sport. He returned to gather the carcasses lying on the forest floor and take photographs. Pough's photographs were eventually seen by a New York conservation activist, Rosalie Edge.
In 1934, Mrs. Edge came to Hawk Mountain and leased 1,400 acres. She installed a warden on the property, a New England bird enthusiast named Maurice Broun, and Maurice's wife and bird conservation partner, Irma Broun. The shooting stopped immediately and the next year, Mrs. Edge opened the Sanctuary to the public as a place to see the beautiful but persecuted birds of prey. She purchased and deeded the 1,400 acres to Hawk Mountain Sanctuary Association, incorporated in 1938 as a non-profit organization in Pennsylvania.