Bald Eagle's Disappearance "Suspicious"
Monday, September 22 2008 @ 01:06 AM EDT
Contributed by: karenbills
Festival of Hawks organizers launch investigation
Doug Schmidt and Craig Pearson, The Windsor Star
Published: Sunday, September 21, 2008
AMHERSTBURG -- The local birding community is all aflutter and police have launched an investigation following a series of disturbing events at the peak of the fall migratory season.
The birders fear someone may be targeting them and the work they do assisting environmental and natural scientists.
At the start of the two-day Festival of Hawks at Holiday Beach conservation area, organizers arrived before dawn on Saturday to discover their bird blinds had been raided and 25 expensive specialized nets had been cut down and taken, and the supporting poles broken.
The annual festival's opening day was also supposed to see the release from Holiday Beach of a locally-rescued bald eagle who was brought back to health by Erie Wildlife Rescue. But on Friday, the outdoor cage where the eagle was being housed at Erie Wildlife was found broken and empty.
"We weren't sure whether he was helped out or he got out, but when we heard about the incident at Holiday Beach, we became suspicious," Ellen Hedges, a volunteer with Erie Wildlife Rescue, said Sunday. "Maybe somebody thought they were doing the eagle a favour."
Hedges said people sometimes don't understand that animal conservation groups occasionally must capture animals in order to help them.
"Sometimes they just see animals in captivity and they don't stop to think why," she said. "It's not like we went out and caught the eagle. He was weak and needed help.
"And banding birds helps them. You can't learn to protect them until you know about the biology of the bird."
She called it a shame that the eagle was neither banded nor shown to birders before its release.
"We're all still reeling from it," Holiday Beach Migration Observatory master bander Phil Roberts said about the missing nets, used to temporarily capture migrating birds in order to attach tiny information bands before releasing them again. Hearing about the stolen nets, a Holiday Beach visitor alerted local birders to a similar act a few days earlier at a migratory bird station near Port Stanley.
"We're really perplexed by the whole thing -- it seems fairly well orchestrated," said Roberts, who is also president of the Essex County Field Naturalists club. "It could potentially be the same kind of group."
He estimates the value of the stolen nets at about $5,000. Roberts said his group has no idea who might be behind the vandalism and thefts, but he speculated it could be someone who doesn't understand the bird-banding program.
The Holiday Beach Migration Observatory is run by volunteers who collect data for provincial and federal research into bird migration patterns and environmental indicators. The local birders follow guidelines set out by the Canadian Wildlife Service and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. Roberts said the briefly captured birds are treated gently and are released uninjured back into the wild, usually in less than two minutes.
Amherstburg police investigators went to each targeted Holiday Beach site on Saturday.
"We've never had a single criticism," Roberts said of the local migration observatory.
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tag: theft damage eagle released conservation ]