A federally and state-protected osprey that was shot by a pellet gun and fell from a ship’s mast in August had to to be euthanized this week because its wound became infected.
“The bone tissue at the fracture site was dying and was likely to cause systemic problems,” Tom Sweet, executive director of the Key West Wildlife Center, the non-profit animal rescue group that was rehabilitating the bird since early September, said in a statement. “Following a hopeful months-long rehabilitation, the condition was discovered today during a scheduled examination in Marathon.”
An Ohio man who shot the bird, Josiah Fetzer, 22, was charged last month with cruelty to animals and violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, said Larry Kahn, spokesman with the Monroe County State Attorney’s Office.
The first charge is punishable by up to a year in jail and/or a $5,000 fine. The second charge, a second-degree misdemeanor, carries a penalty of up to 60 days in jail and/or a $500 fine, Kahn said.
Fetzer shot the bird down from atop the retired U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Ingham, a floating museum — not affiliated with the Coast Guard — on the Truman Waterfront in Key West on Aug. 30.
Fetzer, who could not be reached for comment, told Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers at the time that he did not mean to shoot the bird and was only trying to scare it off the ship. Bobby Dube, a spokesman with FWC, said witnesses reported hearing five shots before the bird hit the pier.
Bill Verge, Ingham museum director, said Thursday that Fetzer no longer works for the museum.
“We let him go,” said Verge, a retired Coast Guard lieutenant. “It’s not our policy to shoot birds.”
Verge said he and others at the museum never thought of the osprey, which he said was “a regular,” as a nuisance. In fact, the bird is missed.
“It was like losing a pet,” he said.
Since the incident, Verge said he paid for the osprey’s medical care, “which is in excess of $1,000,” and the museum has put a policy in writing to staff that no birds on and around the Ingham are to be harmed.
“It ain’t gonna happen again, that’s for sure,” he said.
Sweet confirmed Verge paid for the osprey’s surgery at the Marathon Veterinary Hospital and also made a donation to the Wildlife Center.
After the bird was shot and fell to the ground, wildlife center staff stopped the animal’s bleeding and took it to the Marathon hospital, where Drs. Natasha Self and Doug Mader performed surgery on its wing. The bird was brought back to the wildlife center for rehabilitation after the operation, Sweet said.
“After a quick rescue response by our center to get the bird to the Marathon Veterinary Hospital for surgery, and the brilliant surgical procedure by Dr. Natasha and Dr. Doug Mader, the difficult choice was made to euthanize the bird this morning,” Sweet said.