Video tells story--
FWC ARRESTS FOUR FORT PIERCE MEN ACCUSED OF KILLING PROTECTED BIRDS
September 16, 2003
FORT PIERCE—Investigators with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) recently arrested four Fort Pierce men accused of killing protected nongame migratory birds, including an endangered wood stork, an osprey, a cormorant and several black vultures.
A joint investigation by the FWC and the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office began August 13 after sheriff’s deputies arrested one of the accused and charged him with night hunting on the western edge of the county, said Capt. Jeff Ardelean, who leads the FWC’s South Region Investigations Unit.
Ardelean said deputies contacted the FWC after finding a video tape in the suspect’s car allegedly depicting the four suspects shooting protected birds with rifles and shotguns.
FWC Investigator Travis Franklin said the video shows the accused riding around western St. Lucie County “just randomly killing stuff.”
“I wouldn’t call this hunting,” he said. “They didn’t retrieve any of the protected birds they shot, and left the dead or dying birds to rot.”
All the birds are protected under the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, while the wood stork is also protected under state and federal endangered species laws, Franklin said.
The accused are:
“The video evidence indicates the suspect killed a cormorant with a .22 rifle, and used a shotgun to kill an osprey and black vulture sometime in March off Header Canal Rd. in western St. Lucie County,” Ardelean said.
Killing protected migratory birds is a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to a $500 fine and/or 60 days in jail. Shooting over a roadway is a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine up to $1,000, according to the FWC investigator.
FWC investigators said the video evidence shows the defendant shooting the wood stork with a .22 rifle in Emerald Grove June 21.
Additional charges relating to the killing of an endangered species may be forthcoming in this case, Ardelean said.
FWC investigators and uniformed officers arrested Wilder at his home Saturday, Sept. 13, Ardelean said. Vachon was arrested at his home the following day. Blanton and Owens turned themselves in at the St. Lucie County Jail late Monday afternoon.
Ardelean said all four defendants bonded out of jail and are awaiting trial.
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