By James Barron, The New York Times, April 11, 2012
|The red-tailed hawk Lima, photographed last November, |
was found dead on Feb. 26.
It had the makings of an avian mystery, albeit almost the opposite of that Hitchcockian one. Two red-tailed hawks were found dead, one in Central Park, one just outside. A third died 24 hours after being taken out of the park and sent to a wildlife rehabilitator because concerned park rangers could see that it was “not acting right.”
Was it a whodunit? No, birders said on Wednesday, it was a whatdunit.
The results of necropsies on the three birds are in, and the culprit was not some predator in the park — not a cat stalking a snack, for example. Toxicology tests showed that all three hawks had died with rat poison in their systems.
That was just what some birdwatchers had suspected. One, Lincoln Karim, a wildlife photographer who was arrested after he kept one of the dead hawks in his apartment overnight, has maintained that the Central Park Conservancy applied rat poison in the park.
On Wednesday, a parks department spokesman acknowledged that until last June the conservancy had indeed used rat poison. But now the group uses snap traps in tamper-proof boxes that look like bait stations.
Still, the hawks’ deaths were more recent than last summer, and there was one place in the park where there was poison in February, around the time the urban park rangers reported the hawk that was behaving erratically. That place was outside the Central Park police precinct, on the 86th Street transverse.
Mr. Karim noticed an exterminator’s sign as he was leaving the precinct on Feb. 27, after spending most of the night in a holding cell there after his arrest. He asked a friend to photograph the sign that morning.
“That’s the only spot in their hunting ground that has rat poison,” Mr. Karim said.
A police spokeswoman, Deputy Inspector Kim Royster, said that a contractor had placed rat poison outside the temporary station house in preparation for its demolition, as is often done when a building is to be torn down.
It had been vacated after renovations were completed and precinct operations moved to a newly remodeled building next door in January, she said.
So the plot thickens. Did the dead hawks feast on rats or mice that had crawled into the containers, swallowed some of the poison and managed to crawl out again? There is no way to know, birders say.
“Hawks cover a large area,” said Glenn Phillips, the executive director of New York City Audubon. “It’s big enough that they don’t feed, forage, in a single park.”
He added, “Every single park in New York is faced by tall buildings, which have their own garbage, which feeds rats, and their own rat-control programs. We believe the most likely source of rat poison is residences and other businesses surrounding the parks.”
The first hawk, a female, was found dead on Feb. 10. Another of the dead hawks was Lima, the mate of Pale Male, the celebrity red-tail with the Fifth Avenue address. She was found dead under a tree on Feb. 26. Mr. Karim said that the day before Lima died, she had coughed up the remains of a rat, as hawks will do after a meal.
A necropsy by the State Department of Environmental Conservation found that Lima had small amounts of three chemical components of rat poison in her liver. One was bromadiolone, a powerful poison that can kill rats or mice within 48 hours.
The third hawk, who had been turned over to the wildlife rehabilitator, also had bromadiolone in her liver, along with two other types of poison, according to the necropsy. She was found at Central Park South and Seventh Avenue on March 4. She too had bromadiolone and other poisons in her system. But the state pathologist who performed toxicology tests concluded that it died from shock related to a problem with her oviduct, a passageway from the ovaries.
As for Mr. Karim, he carried Lima’s body out of the park on Feb. 26 and kept it in his apartment overnight. On Feb. 27, he carried it back to the park. He was arrested that evening and charged with illegal possession of a raptor without a permit and with obstruction of government administration.
Permaculture: The Many Roles of a Tree
Permaculture: The Many Roles of a Tree