Oct 22, 2011

Hawk shot with nail gun - CAPTURED!

Photo by Catherine Clarke. Taken Oct . 14th. 

Last Sunday, October 16th, WildRescue was notified of a hawk with a projectile through its face. It was seen near the Golden Gate Park Botanical Gardens in San Francisco.

Reports came through WildCare, a local birding group, and from concerned citizens who spotted the bird while visiting the gardens.

We reached out to local authorities and other wildlife groups to make sure we would not be 'stepping on toes' if we were to take on the rescue.

As with the Budweiser gulls (CLICK FOR STORY), it seemed we were the only entity able to invest the time and resources necessary for this difficult rescue operation.

On Monday, October 17th, Duane and Rebecca made the 100-mile journey to Golden Gate Park. This is their account:

We met up with Kate, a local resident who showed us where she'd originally observed the bird. Unfortunately, it was no where to be found.

Later that evening, though, after we'd left (of course), Kate spotted the hawk again, and was able to capture additional photographs, confirming the projectile was a framing nail from a nail gun.

Photo courtesy Katherine Ulrich

We alerted US Fish & Wildlife Service and the San Francisco Animal Control as we believed the bird was harmed intentionally. We also sent out press releases that included Kate's graphic images of the injured animal, hoping to get the community involved in reporting sightings. We also announce the reward being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible - the reward stand at $10,000.00.

We returned to the Botanical Gardens Tuesday morning. With Kate's help, we scoured the area in search of the elusive raptor. We used binoculars to scan the trees as we listened for sounds that could give away the predator's location - squirrel alarms or mobbing of birds.


We decided to just wait in the area the bird had been seen nearly every day. We waited and waited and waited. 

Click to enlarge.

Finally, around 3:00 pm, one of the groundskeepers sighted the hawk - it had just made a kill - a squirrel. 

Occupied with its meal, the hawk allowed us within a few yards, but we were hesitant to use a net for fear that the material would snag on the nail and do more harm. 

Our plan was to use a bal-chatri - a trap designed especially to trap raptors - but in order for this to work, the bird must be hungry enough to be lured to the bait.

Clearly, the bird was not interested in anything but the squirrel. We called it a day.

Wednesday, one of our Bay Area responders, Mark Russell, monitored the area on and off throughout the day. It was Kate, though, who spotted the hawk again in the arboretum. She watched it successfully capture and consume a gopher.

Thursday, the bird was only observed once, when it was quickly chased off by an adult red-tailed hawk.

By this time, the story of the hawk had made it around the world and we were receiving numerous reports of sightings, some dating as far back as October 9th. We received a photo of an uninjured hawk, closely resembling the injured one - observed near Buena Vista Park in September.

These sightings provided information on the bird's history and its daily pattern, helping us build our search and capture plan.

Reported sightings of the injured hawk.

On Friday, we staked out the arboretum the entire day, heading home, feeling quite frustrated, at about 6:00 pm. The entire day we observed two adult red-taileds and a quick glimpse of two juveniles as they flew over the arboretum. At 6:45 pm we received a call that someone had spotted the hawk at 15th Avenue Steps Park around 6:15. It was observed hunting.

We were feeling pretty low, not to mention exhausted from the many hours on the road.

Saturday, we took our time making it into the city. We were about 10 minutes away when a call came in from someone at the Gardens - they had their eyes on the hawk!

One of our East Bay responders, Akira, had just arrived and we were just minutes away with the traps.

We caught up with the finder and others who were watching out for the bird - but it had flown off - they'd lost sight of it. As a group we began searching. All of a sudden, this fellow said something like "Are you looking for him?" - pointing at eye-level, only a few feet away...

There he was - perched in a small tree right next to the path.

We quickly escorted bystanders a good distance away and set out the bal-chatri. Within a few minutes the hawk landed on top of it, but failed to be entrapped. He flew back to one of the small trees. 

We decided to deploy a second trap.

Photo: Katherine Ulrich

After about an hour of watching and waiting and shepherding park-goers from the area, the hawk landed near one of the traps. He was obviously hungry. Finally, he was caught! The crowd of onlookers cheered.

Photo: Katherine Ulrich

This video, below, was shot by someone at the park - it shows the actual capture. The capture and possession of wild birds is unlawful without federal and state permits.

Thanks to the many wonderful park visitors and Botanical Garden staff who helped us collect our gear and exit quickly, we were on the road and headed to the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley in no time. 

We arrived at the wildlife hospital at 6:35. Their medical team had stayed late to receive the bird.

We will keep you apprised of his condition with hope of returning him home when he has recovered.

A reminder, WildRescue is an all-volunteer organization - no salaried positions, no paid staff - all the 75-or-so man-hours it took to capture this hawk were all volunteer with no compensation whatsoever.