Editor’s note: This is a rerun of a 2017 column because a woman who lives in PGI recently called me and said she had seen one of her neighbors out shooting a pellet rifle at an osprey.
As a boat owner, you have to hate it when some filthy osprey lands on your boat and makes a mess. When one of those nasty creatures sits atop your mast, it shreds your canvas with its fierce talons. If it pauses up there to eat, the parts of the fish even the dirty bird doesn’t want end up all over your deck. And don’t forget, the bird’s disgusting droppings can be so acidic they eat away at the finishes that you so painstakingly wash, polish and shine. What is a boat owner to do?
Well, one thing a boat owner cannot do is shoot the bird. Unfortunately, that is exactly what someone in one Punta Gorda Isles neighborhood is doing. Peace River Wildlife Center has admitted two ospreys in the past few weeks with similar gunshot wounds. One bird was killed almost immediately — horrified neighbors watched as the bird bled to death on their dock within 30 minutes.
The other is still in rehabilitation at PRWC. The injury from the pellet in his wing is healing, but his ability to fly is still questionable. Not only do the birds suffer penetrating wounds from the pellet, but blunt force trauma from tumbling to the ground, or pneumonia from plummeting into the water. If the bird is not releasable, it will have to be euthanized.
Perhaps the boat owner was only trying to scare the bird away his investment? I am no expert on guns, but even I know that you never aim a firearm at something unless you plan to kill it. It doesn’t matter if you are a 6-year-old with a BB gun, a 16-year-old with a shotgun, or a 60-year-old with a rifle.
Not only is it irresponsible to discharge a weapon in a residential neighborhood, it is a federal offense to shoot at an osprey. These birds and all other raptors are protected under the USFWS Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 (not exactly a new rule). You can’t even keep a feather you happen to find on the ground — you certainly may not kill a bird.
Why does the osprey insist on perching on your expensive sailboat? It prefers to sit on the highest perch available to peruse its surroundings. Eons of evolution have taught the bird that a tall, unobstructed vantage point provides the best place to watch for food, mates and predators. Sitting atop a tall mast, it can peer down the manmade canals, look out over the fancy houses and watch the traffic on all the paved roads.
Since we have cleared most of its preferential natural surroundings, the displaced bird is doing the best he can to survive in spite of our development. The very least we can do is try to peacefully coexist with this beautiful bird whose home we have invaded.
There are myriad ways to safely and successfully keep birds from landing on your boat. From light line strung across horizontal surfaces to pointed spikes atop masts, nonlethal methods to keep birds off your boat make sense. These devices, once put in place, will be there even if you are not, and can easily be removed if necessary when you want to use your boat.
Sitting on your dock taking potshots at every bird that has the audacity to land on your property is a terrible plan not just for the birds but for the boat owner also. It only works as long as you’re sitting there, and only for that bird. As soon as you kill that one, another will take its place.
Check out an excellent article at http://bit.ly/10iFZUE for more tips on persuading birds to leave your boat alone. Then maybe you will have time to sit on your dock and enjoy the majesty of this magnificent creature and all the others we are so blessed to be surrounded by in our little corner of paradise.
If anyone has information regarding these unlawful shootings or any wildlife offenses, call the FWC’s 24-hour Wildlife Alert Number at 888-404-FWCC (3922).
Peace River Wildlife Center is a nonprofit organization, dedicated to the care, preservation and protection of Charlotte County’s native wildlife since 1978. They are open seven days a week year-round, including holidays. Tours are offered from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. PRWC receives no government funding and relies entirely on private donations. For more info, visit PRWildlife.org, email PeaceRiverWildlife@yahoo.com or call 941-637-3830.