Monday, November 30, 2015 • 02:30

Hawks shot near Hellhole canyon: birds of prey are important

August 01, 2013
Two young hawks were killed by a shotgun blast in Hellhole Canyon around the second week of June. Someone placed them side by side on the shoulder of Kiavo Road near Santee Road. The incident was reported to the local office of Fish & Wildlife, however, the shooter was not identified and no arrests were made. Based on photos the birds killed appear to be Sharp-shinned Hawks.

The Sharp-shinned Hawk population was on the decline in the 50's and 60's due to DDT and other pesticide exposure. Since the ban on DDT these birds and other raptors have been making a steady comeback. The Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus) is a small hawk. In fact, "sharp-shins" or "sharpies", as they are sometimes called, are the smallest to reside in USA (a tropical variant is aptly named the Tiny Hawk)

Birds of prey are important because they help control animal populations and are an integral part of keeping natural systems in balance. If raptor prey such as mice, rabbits, rats and prairie dogs become too abundant, they can damage crops and lands and transmit diseases to humans, domestic livestock and pets. Raptors help to prevent prey population explosions that can lead to habitat problems. Raptors are also important environmental barometers. Since raptors feed at the top of nature's food pyramid, their population provides a good indicator of the underlying health of natural ecosystems.

The entire Hellhole Canyon and Paradise Mountain community is extremely concerned that someone that lives in our midst would kill these protected birds. Many of the residents moved to the vicinity of this canyon for the appreciation of open space and wildlife. It is obvious to everyone in this community that one of our neighbors does not share the same values. Maybe this person is unaware of the fact that these birds of prey are protected and some are even endangered. Killing any bird of prey is a federal violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 punishable by up to a $5,000 fine and six months in prison. These birds are also protected by California state lawsą.

ąThe word "raptor" is the term used for a group of birds consisting of hawks, falcons, kites, eagles, vultures and owls. Raptors, also referred to as "birds of prey", are a valuable resource to the State of California, and therefore are protected under State law (See Fish and Game Code, Sections 3503, 3503.5, 3505 and 3513, and California Code of Regulation, Title 14, Sections 251.1, 652 and 783-786.6).

If anyone witnesses someone killing any birds of prey please contact the authorities.

California Department of Fish and Wildlife - 888-334-2258

San Diego Sheriff - 858-565-5200

San Diego Parks and Recreation Ranger Office (Wilderness Gardens) - 760-742-1631

Park Ranger Nick Sloan (cell) - 760-212-5549

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Laurie Carter is a member of the board of directors of the Friends of Hellhole Canyon and a Hellhole Canyon area resident.

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