OK, I’m just about speechless. Look at this.
Bird experts and enthusiasts reacted with surprise and anger Thursday when they learned that two nesting hawks at an exclusive golf resort in Orange County were shot down by federal agents.
The red-shouldered hawks were killed Wednesday morning near the clubhouse of the Villas of Grand Cypress Golf Resort near Interstate 4 and south of the Dr. Phillips community. About a dozen guests had complained of being attacked.
The resort asked U.S. Department of Agriculture officials to remove the birds, which can have wing spans of nearly 4 feet and prey on snakes, frogs and insects. Although relatively common in Florida, red-shouldered hawks are federally protected.
After an agency biologist determined the birds were a threat to people, an agency technician killed them with a shotgun. Both hawks were perched in trees in an area cleared of employees and guests, Channell said.
Bernice Constantin, state director of wildlife services in Gainesville for the Agriculture Department, said the shooting of raptors is a rare event.
I’ll bet it is. Especially for the USDA, which is not the relevant authority. The US Fish and Wildlife Service in the Department of the Interior is the government agency charged with issuing permits under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. They are the ones that the USDA gets permits from, and they should have been handed the problem immediately.
They might have had a few synapses more to put on the problem than did the USDA agents (“On *whose* side?”) who were obviously way beyond their cognitive capabililties on this one.
Addition: Hat tip to grrlscientist, who had this advice:
Okay, peeps, EVERYONE who cares about how wildlife-human conflicts are handled in this country should write STRONG complaints about this incident.
Huh. It may be that my friend and colleague from when I was at the University of Florida, Dr. Barbara Kohn, will end up fielding some of your complaints, as she works for USDA’s APHIS.
You know, I got to thinking about what good would come of writing to USDA to ask them to police themselves. What we have here is a pretty clear case of exceedingly poor judgement (at best) or a possible violation of the permit.
Write, email, or telephone US Fish and Wildlife Service and suggest that they rescind the USDA permit to deal with native bird species. As a poor second, ask that the USDA’s permit be revised to explicitly bar them from taking lethal measures in dealing with native bird species, or that lethal measures may only be applied with written approval of F&WS. At the very minimum, the two USDA idiot field agents responsible for this fiasco absolutely must be removed from the current permit. I think that complaints to the permitting agency are more likely to produce results than complaints to the perpetrating agency.
Here is US F&WS contact information for the relevant region:
Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Migratory Bird Permit Office
P.O. Box 49208
Atlanta, GA 30359
Tel. (404) 679-7070
Fax (404) 679-4180
(Please include your telephone number in the text of your message so we may better serve you).
If you would be so kind, please enter a copy of what you send to either the USDA or US F&WS in a comment here, too.
Update: A comment on “Scientist Interrupted” site relates that the nest was left for two days. When the nest was finally examined, the chicks were dead. It also reports that the golf course management consulted with Florida Audubon, who told them about a successful relocation of hawks and their nest. The golf course management apparently decided that would take too long. So my previous willingness to give the golf course management the benefit of doubt (perhaps they just called a trigger-happy agency by chance) is fast fading. It isn’t just the idiots in the USDA who need taking down a notch or two. Word is that the birding community intersects and overlaps with the golf community, and a boycott of the course is being urged.