I rarely write an editorial but I feel strongly about the issue of how hawk remains are handled in the city and felt like I needed to write something.
In New York State, there are strict guidelines about how to handle the remains of dead raptors. For health purposes, they must be disposed of quickly and properly. If an animal is suspected of having died due to environmental issues, the NYS DEC must be contacted, and arrangements made with the agency for testing.
In addition, individuals may not possess hawk remains without permission. To protect the poaching of hawks, it is illegal to possess hawk feathers without a permit.
(There are exceptions, such as scientific studies, but these are approved by the DEC. Also, if the bird is suspected as having a disease, such as West Nile Virus, it should be turned over to the local health department.)
Once remains are turned over to the NYS DEC, they test the bird at their discretion. If the bird is not a threatened species, the NYS DEC may not test the animal. As much as an individual may want to force the NYS DEC to perform a necropsy on a specific bird, it is not the individual's choice under current regulations.
Lincoln Karim's holding onto the remains of Lima prompted his arrest. This was an entirely appropriate by the NYS DEC. It doesn't make sense to have individuals running around with hawk remains. It potentially destroys the evidence of an environmental problem and if the bird had a contagious disease, it could spread it.
If the hawk watching community want all New York City hawk remains to be tested to identify possible rodenticide or pesticide issues, they should do some fund raising. I'm sure NYC Audubon or other local organizations would happily provide the scientific staff support for a long term study of hawk deaths in the city, if the hawk watching community funded it.
Individuals like Lincoln Karim can't act on their own. They must work within the system. To do that you need to build bridges with local rehabbers, the Central Park Conservancy, the NYC Parks and Recreation Department, local birding organizations and the scientific community.
In closing, I'd like to thank the NYS DEC officers for doing their jobs. Lima's death should result in newspaper articles about the quality of city's environment and how it effects birds, not about those who are obsessed with them. I'm tired of seeing articles in the paper about crazy hawk watchers rather than the joy of experiencing these birds make a comeback in the city or detailing the hazards hawks face daily.