Friday, February 20, 2009

Seven Arrested For Shooting Protected Birds

Ibis, Blue Heron, Cormorants Shot Dead By Hunters

IMMOKAKEE, FL. -- Simply by being in the right place at the right time Tuesday evening, officers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) were able to arrest a group of people suspected of shooting and killing protected birds.

Officer Dan Stermen was on routine patrol of Curcie Grade and County Road 92 in Collier County, when he heard gunfire coming from the direction of a bird rookery.  As he got closer, he observed birds flying erratically and some falling from the sky.  Stermen called for backup and waited near some cars that were parked on a peninsula leading to a lake.  The area is marked "no trespassing."

Three men returned to their car in a boat.  Officers saw firearms in the boat.  Zachary J. Mato (DOB 8/16/86) and Cullen M. Shaughnessy (DOB 8/5/86), both of Marco Island, and Joseph W. Gursky (DOB 3/25/86) of Hillsdale, N.Y., were charged with felony trespass with a firearm and booked into Collier County Jail.

Four other people on the island were on foot and were ferried back to land.  Keith G. Lisa (DOB 3/1/77) of North Bergen, N.J., Alexander B. Wilhelm (DOB 9/14/84) of Annapolis, Md., Mark L. McClure (DOB 12/15/85) of Osprey, Fla. and Stephanie M. Meads (DOB 7/11/85) of Naples, were charged with misdemeanor trespassing and booked into the jail.

Officers collected 21 dead birds at the scene.  The birds had been shot.  Some of the birds are classified as "species of special concern," which means they are protected under state law.  Some of the protected birds found at the scene included white ibis and blue heron. 

Some of the other birds found shot to death included tree swallows and cormorants.  These birds are protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty act.

"In my 27 years as an officer, I�ve never seen people deliberately shoot and kill birds and just leave them for dead," said FWC Lt. Wayne Maahs.  "This is truly a heinous act."  

Additional charges are pending.

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