Recreational drones are illegal in San Francisco public parks, but rumors that a drone killed a hawk in Dolores Park are unconfirmed and drawing skeptical responses from bird experts.
For the occasional lovely aerial video that drones are able to provide, the flying surveillance devices are also rightfully blamed for their many scourges like causing power outages, crashing into farmers’ markets, screwing up helicopter rescues, and disrupting hanky-panky between migratory animals. So the Bay Area has been quick to heap scorn on an unidentified drone flyer who allegedly flew a drone into a red-tailed hawk and killed the feathered raptor in Dolores Park on Christmas Eve. But the Chronicle looked looked into the story today, and their reporting raises questions over whether a drone was actually responsible.
"Whether a drone could kill a bird? I have my doubts," said Randall Museum animal care attendant Dominik Mosur, noting that the bird’s body did not show signs of a drone impact. "It’s possible that maybe the bird attacked the drone or that the drone spooked the bird. Did the drone collide with it?"
Hoodline originally reported the drone story last week, noting that SF Animal Care & Control (SFACC) confirmed finding a hawk’s body in the park after being alerted on December 24. But a post blew up on the rumor mill known as Nextdoor alleging a drone was responsible, with comments varying between condemnation of a supposedly careless drone pilot and drone defenders claiming the unlikelihood of the machine’s culpability in killing the hawk.
The evidence remains uncertain. The original complaint to SFACC claimed a drone was responsible, but SFACC has not confirmed this version of events. One person present told SFACC that he’d heard a drone hit the bird, but acknowledges he didn’t actually see this. The department’s Lt. Eleanor Sadler, whom you may know as Officer Edith on Twitter, acknowledges the bird’s body had no open wounds.
Just one dead hawk is a fairly big deal in San Francisco, as the Randall Museum estimates that there are but “20 to 30 red-tailed hawks” in the city. Drone enthusiasts are advised to keep those things out of parks and to not fly the contraptions around hawks; drone culture detractors must still patiently wait for the day when electromagnetic drone-zapping guns are available to the general public.
Image: torbakhopper via Flickr