Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Hawk Chronicler Arrested Over Possession of Dead Bird

February 28, 2012, 11:46 AM

Updated, 12:14 p.m. | A longtime birdwatcher who carried a dead red-tailed hawk out of Central Park on Sunday, kept it in his apartment overnight and then carried it back to the park was arrested on Monday and charged with illegal possession of a raptor without a permit.

The birdwatcher, Lincoln Karim, was also charged with obstruction of government administration, according to Rodney Rivera, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Another birdwatcher who was with him was also charged with illegal possession of a raptor, Mr. Rivera said.

The dead hawk was the recent regular female companion of Pale Male, the celebrity hawk whose haunts include a Fifth Avenue co-op that once tried to evict him. Mr. Karim said tourists had found the dead hawk, known as Lima, on Sunday afternoon. The tourists found Mr. Karim when they went looking for help, and as darkness closed in, he took the dead bird home for safekeeping. He said he had arranged to take it to a laboratory in Albany for a necropsy and toxicology tests.

He then posted word of Lima’s death on the Web site Palemale.com, and on Monday, he heard from the environmental conservation officer who eventually took him into custody.

The arrest “happened because he was in contact with us for pretty much the whole day” on Monday, Mr. Rivera said, and had given the environmental conservation officer “somewhat of a runaround, saying he’d meet at one place and then going there and not having the bird on him and getting the bird. After putting in so many man-hours chasing the man down, they felt at that point they had to charge him.”

“This could have all been totally avoided if he had gave us the bird at the time he initially called us,” Mr. Rivera said, “and we would have sent it up to our pathology unit in Albany. Unfortunately, he made it harder on us, and himself.”

Mr. Karim was held overnight and released on Tuesday morning.

Mr. Karim had said on Monday afternoon — after he and the officer had been in touch by cellphone, and before his arrest — that he doubted that the bird’s body would be taken to the lab if he turned it over to the officer.

He said later that when he went home on Monday night, he found the officer parked in front of his apartment building. He said he went to the Midtown North police precinct station house nearby, seeking guidance. He said he also called the Central Park police.

He said he went back to his street and called the officer again from down the block, telling him he had taken the bird to a bird handler’s apartment on the Upper West Side. That was not true — Mr. Karim said he had been planning to take the bird there so the bird handler could turn it over to the authorities, but at the moment he made the call, he was still standing in the shadows on his own street.

He said he just wanted to say something to get the officer away from his building so he could go inside and decide what to do. Mr. Karim said he was suspicious that the officer was intent on arresting him.

“I said, ‘I just want to get this hawk to you, but you’re trying to do something bad to me, and I haven’t done anything wrong.’” Mr. Karim said. He said the officer accused him of deception.

Mr. Karim said he decided to take the bird to Central Park, instead of the handler’s apartment. He said that he and the woman who was arrested with him, identified by Mr. Rivera as Stella Hamilton, left it under a lamp post, and that he called the officer and told him that. He said the officer told him he was going home and would pick up the hawk in the morning — if it was still there.

Mr. Karim and the woman waited for a while to see whether the officer would come and pick up the bird. “I said, ‘I can’t leave Pale Male’s mate on the ground like that,’” Mr. Karim said. So he asked the woman to pick up the bird, and the officer ran out of the bushes “with his hand on his gun,” Mr. Karim said.

Mr. Karim was also arrested in 2004 on charges that included aggravated harassment at a protest across the street from 927 Fifth Avenue, the co-op that had removed Pale Male’s longtime perch. Mr. Karim was accused of repeatedly approaching the broadcaster Paula Zahn and her family, who lived in the building. Law enforcement officials said at the time that when her son, then 7, went out with his nanny to walk his dog, Mr. Karim told him, “Your parents are going to pay for this.”

Mr. Karim said on Tuesday that the charges against him in the 2004 arrest were dismissed.