Now that the hawk believed to have been shot with a nail gun is back in the wild, authorities are looking to nail the person responsible for its injuries.
Authorities plan to run the construction-equipment equivalent of a ballistics test on the nail recovered from the hawk’s skull to narrow the search for a culprit in the federal animal cruelty crime.
“Nails are like bullets,” said Lt. Le-Ellis Brown, an animal control officer for the San Francisco Department of Animal Care and Control.
Just as special tests can determine what kind of gun shot a bullet, authorities can determine what piece of equipment shot the nail, Brown said.
No suspects have been identified, but authorities plan to begin their search at construction sites, where a nail gun is a standard tool. Once authorities know what type of nail gun was used, they can refine their search to construction sites using those models, Brown said.
“There’s so much construction in San Francisco; the hard part is trying to pinpoint where it happened,” Brown said.
Red-tailed hawks are protected under the federal Migratory Birds Treaty Act, and harming one is punishable by up to six months prison and a $15,000 fine, according to the Humane Society of the United States. On Wednesday, more than 60 people — including the hawk’s rescuers and medical team, media representatives and onlookers — gathered at the Botanical Garden in Golden Gate Park to release the bird, almost exactly where it was captured Oct. 22.
“We didn’t want to release her anywhere else,” said Rebecca Dmytryk, director of WildRescue, the emergency responder organization that trapped the bird.
WildRescue heard about a bird with a nail extending from its cheek through the front of its head Oct. 16 and tracked it through Golden Gate Park for a week before capturing it in a special baited trap. Rescuers feared nets would have tangled in the nail and caused more harm to the hawk.
The nail fell out while the hawk was being transported to Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley in San Jose. The center conducted blood work and X-rays and helped the bird gain back its strength and begin eating again.
Moments after Brown opened the latch on the bird’s carrying cage, the hawk jetted to a crabapple tree, in the same grove where rescuers found the bird.
When the newly freed hawk took flight from its perch, another hawk that had been watching from a distance followed.
After more than a week of care, the hawk was able to return to the wild.