By Denys Hemen, Hospital Manager
At CWC we have received 36 patients so far this year that have been shot by a pellet, BB, or shotgun. Last year we received 51. In all of these cases the perpetrator was never known and most of the patients had to be euthanized. The animals were found by caring members of the public, unable to fly or crawl away. Most of these people had no idea that the animals had been shot and were very shocked to find out when they followed up with us over the phone. This can be a very frustrating situation for us and the public. We know there are multiple people in Los Angeles and the surrounding areas shooting wildlife, but we are helpless to address the situation without evidence. One day recently, that all changed.
A hawk was brought into our exam room unable to stand or fly. As we do with all our patients, CWC staff gathered important information from the rescuer. The rescuer told us how he found the hawk in his backyard and that he believed it was shot. He stated that he knew someone in his neighborhood that he had seen shooting birds. We quizzed him and made sure he had seen the gun in the person’s hand actively pointing at birds and firing. X-rays confirmed that the bird had pellet fragments inside it’s body. Finally, that helpless feeling began to go away. We gave the rescuer the contact information for the proper authorities. Then we followed up with the same department. We gave the rescuer’s contact information to the officer and by the next day they had contacted them. An officer arrived at the scene later that week and questioned the perpetrator who immediately admitted to the shooting. Justice had been served. Not only for the hawk but also for the numerous other birds this person had illegally shot.
Shooting nongame migratory birds is a federal offense and a state offense in California with fines that can reach into the thousands of dollars. This story proves that we are not always helpless when trying to protect our wildlife from poachers. Sometimes it pays off to be persistent. If we have proof, then the law is on our side. Even though our California State Park and California Department of Fish and Game departments are underfunded and understaffed, there are eager individuals who are passionate about our wildlife and are willing to serve justice. If you ever witness a person shooting non-game wildlife or shooting any wildlife in the city limits, please call the CalTIP line at 888-334-CALTIP or visit the website at www.wildlife.ca.gov/enforcement/caltip.