Federal agency working with FWC on unauthorized feeding issue at North Fort Myers eagle nest
A federal agency is working with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission on an issue involving the placement of food near a North Fort Myers eagle nest.
Taylor Pool, deputy assistant regional director, Office of Communications, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Southeast Regional Office, said that while the Service does not currently have an open investigation into this issue, he did confirm: "this is a behavior mitigation issue and we are working with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission."
Pool said that the mortality rate during the first year of life for eagles is over 50 percent.
"Individuals who think they may be helping, could potentially be putting the eaglets at a greater risk," Pool said in an email to WGCU. "Leaving food outside/near an eagle’s nest can cause far more harm than good and potentially lead to mortality or injury of the chicks. Based on our observations, on its own the male is feeding both eaglets and at this time we do not have any plans to intervene."
An initial investigation into feeding activities involving the nest of breeding eagles Harriet and M15 along Bayshore Road was conducted by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission.
Harriet's absence since late Feb. 2 has raised concerns and comments from the thousands of online viewers of the Southwest Florida Eagle Cam. As of Friday afternoon, Harriet remained vanished.
Some observers from the website and elsewhere had made suggestions about placing food at the nesting tree and other recommendations, some of which go against federal laws governing protected species. Such activity can result in a fine of $100,000 ($200,000 for organizations), imprisonment for one year, or both.
The disappearance of Harriett from the nest over a week ago prompted some people to bring food to the site and access a fenced in area around the nesting tree. Sunday afternoon one person could be seen at the nest site, inside the fence and placing something at the base of the nesting tree, an area that is private property and off-limits to anyone not authorized to be there.
Some of the photographers who gather outside the fence at the nesting site have captured images of one of the people who trespassed the fenced-in area and the photos have been turned over to the FWC.
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.
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