Unauthorized feeding at North Fort Myers eagle nest investigated
An investigation into feeding activities involving the nest of breeding eagles Harriet and M15 is being conducted by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission.
Harriet has not been seen around the Bayshore Road nest since late Thursday, raising all manner of concerns, worries and comments from the thousands of online viewers of the Southwest Florida Eagle Cam.
The drama has caused some observers from the web site and others to become upset and make suggestions about placing food at the nesting tree and other recommendations, some of which go against federal laws governing protected species and can result in a fine of $100,000 ($200,000 for organizations), imprisonment for one year, or both.
Sunday afternoon one person could be seen at the Bayshore Road nest site, inside the fence and placing something at the base of the nesting tree. That area, private property, is off-limits to anyone not authorized to be there.
Another person posted on Facebook that food actually was placed at the nesting tree. "Helping M15 - UPDATE 2/5 - M15 ate food from the pasture put there by loving friends of H&M. M ate a much needed meal without leaving the pasture as I said would work & I would do myself if I was there! All 3 Eagles ate dinner. M is one step closer to saving his babies."
An FWC official Monday said they are investigating the activity: "Feeding eagles is specifically prohibited under the state’s eagle rule (68A-16.002 FAC). This situation is under investigation by law enforcement," Carly Jones from the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said.
Jones added that, in the past, the FWC has deferred to the United States Fish & Wildlife Service and the local permitted eagle rehab facility about when it is appropriate to intervene in events at a nest (e.g. injuries, abandonment, illness).
"FWC is currently working with partners to determine if and how intervention at the nest is necessary," she said.
Also from the FWC on Monday about the Harriet situation:
- For questions on the location of the eagle:
- The FWC does not track specific eagles so we are not able to speculate what happened to this specific bird.
- For questions about feeding:
- Bald eagles are protected by both the FWC and the USFWS. The state eagle rule (68A-16.002, F.A.C.), and two federal laws protecting eagles, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA or Eagle Act). For more information about the federal laws, please visit the USFWS bald eagle web site: https://www.fws.gov/program/eagle-management
- Feeding eagles could have negative consequences by changing the eagle’s natural feeding behavior and could cause them to associate people with food, leading to an increased risk of conflict and injury (e.g., increased likelihood of being struck by a vehicle).
- Feeding bald eagles is specifically prohibited by state rule (68A-16.002 F.A.C.) which states “No person shall take, feed, disturb, possess, sell, purchase or barter any bald eagle or parts thereof, or their nests or eggs, or attempt to engage in any such conduct, except when such conduct is authorized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.” If you suspect a violation of the regulations protecting bald eagles, report it to the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline by calling 888-404-3922.
An administrator from the Southwest Florida Eagle Cam site, identified as Essec09, posted a lengthy description on the web site Sunday on what people should not do:
The property/camera owners (the Pritchett family) and our extended family are all concerned for Harriet; who has not been seen on camera since Thursday afternoon. When she left the camera view (ENE) she had been vocalizing at intruders in the area. Both the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) and FWC are aware of the situation.
"All decisions concerning Bald Eagles are made by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), not by the camera owners. Viewers are reminded that we are merely observers and not all nesting seasons result in a positive outcome.
"Not only are SWFEC followers keeping an eye out for Harriet; local news media picked up the story. It is hoped many in the area are also keeping an eye out for Harriet.
"The Pritchetts have conducted a search on their property. This search did not result in any conclusions. The search on the property had to be conducted by the property owners. This is a working boarding facility and there are liability issues that must be adhered to.
"There are a number of comments that have been posted on Facebook as to what should be done. These individuals apparently do not understand how some actions can be detrimental to wildlife. Laws are put in place because it is a slippery road when you say, “we can do this now because of this” — but later say “it is not okay because of this.” Laws can’t be effective if they are not interpreted the same way.
"Any information as to the welfare of wildlife should come from the proper authorities. PLEASE DO NOT INCITE ILLEGAL ACTIONS.
"Baiting or artificial feeding encourages bold behavior - birds often fight over access to food. By presenting food near the nest/road it encourages more wildlife to the area (not only birds, but small mammals). This is a recipe for disaster - especially in SWFEC’s location. Not only does it bring more predators, there is the risk of accidents involving motor vehicles and power lines.
" Artificial feeding can also lead to eagles looking to humans as food providers. Not only that — some meat that is thrown out may not be safe. Where did the meat come from? Purchased meat can contain bacterial hazards, such as salmonella. Was it shot - with what? Was it found dead on the ground - how did it die?
"There are a number of laws in place to protect eagles. And there is a good reason behind each law.
"Disturbing means: “to agitate or bother a bald or golden eagle to a degree that causes, or is likely to cause, based on the best scientific information available, 1) injury to an eagle, 2) a decrease in its productivity, by substantially interfering with normal breeding, feeding, or sheltering behavior, or 3) nest abandonment, by substantially interfering with normal breeding, feeding, or sheltering behavior,” according to the act.
"A violation of the act can result in a fine of $100,000 ($200,000 for organizations), imprisonment for one year, or both, for a first offense.
"M15 has been protecting his young and has even managed to bring food to the nest. We all rejoice in that, but know it isn’t ideal. We have to remember, M15 is working things out in his head too. He isn’t used to not having a mate to care for the young. He is used to having his own time away from the nest - and it is amazing how he has quickly changed that behavior.
"At this age, it is very difficult for one eagle to raise the young alone. It is not impossible however, as one male did raise his young to fledge when the female was lost. There was also a documented nest where another eagle took over nest duties when a mate was lost. These are not that common, but in nature you can never say never.
" As is normal in their world, E21 (being the older) has become aggressive towards E22. As we have mentioned before, as long as food continues to be offered, sibling rivalry lessens. It is up to E22 to figure out how to get to the food. Just yesterday we saw E22 attempt to self-feed. Hunger is a good motivator and we hope E22 will be clever the next time food is offered. We sincerely hope both eaglets will survive these rough times.
"Reminder - M15 needs to feel comfortable leaving the nest area in order to find food for himself and the eaglets. Having so many people set up near the nest may not be in the best interest of M15’s comfort zone.
"Please be assured we all want the best outcome for this eagle family. But we need to remember the final outcome as to what will be done rests with the proper authorities."
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