Wildlife rescuers might be on a wing and a prayer as they try to capture a red-tailed hawk they said was shot in the head with a nail gun.
After two days of searching for the bird in Golden Gate Park, where it is believed to live, rescuers saw the hawk kill a squirrel, but they were unable to lure it into a trap. WildRescue, a Monterey-based organization, hopes to capture the hawk today, as it may not have many more days to live.
“It’s flying pretty well, but not really that strong. It looks weak,” said Rebecca Dmytryk, executive director of WildRescue.
Even in a weakened state, the bird will likely survive if rescuers can get it to a hospital soon, Dmytryk said.
Dmytryk said the bird is likely a victim of animal cruelty because of the nature of the injury — a nail extending from the hawk’s cheek through the front of its head. The group is offering a $5,000 reward from an anonymous donor for tips that lead to an arrest.
“It was luck, but someone did this purposefully and had to be in close range,” said Dmytryk.
Red-tailed hawks are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and harming one is a federal offense punishable by up to six months in prison and a $15,000 fine, according to Elise Traub, outreach and policy manager for the Humane Society of the United States’ Wildlife Abuse Campaign.
“Harming, killing one — even if the animal survives — it’s still a federal crime,” Traub said.
WildRescue was alerted to the injured bird Sunday night by San Rafael-based WildCare. Rescuers began searching for the bird Monday. They plan to capture the hawk by setting traps. Nets won’t work because they could entangle the nail and cause more harm to the bird, Dmytryk said.
Dmytryk said the injured hawk is likely the offspring of two hawks known to nest in Golden Gate Park. A juvenile, the bird probably began flying about two months ago and is unlikely to travel far from home. For that reason, Dmytryk said the attack probably happened locally.
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For a city named after the patron saint of animals, San Francisco has had incidents of killing or harming wildlife in the past year.
The killing of one of the Palace of Fine Arts’ iconic swans Nov. 13, 2010, prompted outrage. The swan’s neck had been broken, and a necropsy revealed foul play. Longtime caretakers said there had been a large party in the area the night of the killing and beer cans were found at the crime scene. No arrests have been made.
In summer 2010, someone decided to take a household pesticide and spray it on honeybee hives at Hayes Valley Farm. Nearly 200,000 stingers were lost. No arrests were ever made, but the farm managed to replenish its bee population earlier this year.
Man’s worst enemy
Who goes around stabbing other people’s dogs? Hard to tell, but someone allegedly did it to a woman’s pooch last year at Fort Funston. The injured dog’s owner said a man with a pit bull mix that wasn’t neutered knifed her little Lenny while they crossed paths at the park. Charges were never filed against the man because a National Park Service detective said there were no witnesses.