Right now, in many parts of the country, young ospreys are about to leave their nests. By August, juveniles born in May will have fledged, or developed the feathers necessary to fly. Soon they will be gorgeous, independent adult raptors, known for their distinctive plumage and powerful dives into the water.
However, in a case that has caused widespread outrage, two beautiful 2-month-old osprey juveniles in Calvert County, Maryland, never had the chance to spread their wings. On Monday, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Wildlife Services grabbed the birds from their nest in Calvert County Cove Point Park, shoved them into a pet carrier, and then killed them—all just to fix one light bulb in a ballpark fixture on which they were nesting.
Calvert County Government requested the removal because the birds were purportedly “impeding the replacement/repair of the lights.” But had Calvert County waited just a few days, the juveniles would have been able to fly and the nest could have been removed without harm coming to the birds.
The parents of these juveniles may have witnessed their offspring, who they had fed and raised for six months, being hauled away and killed.
Ospreys are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, yet in some circumstances the USDA can waive this Federal Act and permit “lethal take.” This is yet another troubling example of how government-sanctioned killing is carried out against birds, cats, and many more species every single day. It is paid for by taxpayer dollars, yet the public very rarely knows about it.
California’s East Bay Regional Park District is contracting with the same USDA Wildlife Services for lethal removal of cats.
Alley Cat Allies is fighting to bring an end to entrenched lethal policies and enact humane, effective measures that protect all animals. We stand in strong opposition to the osprey killings and the USDA’s continuous disregard for animals’ lives.
“Alley Cat Allies promotes the co-existence of all animals, and what was done to these young ospreys is disturbing and intolerable,” says Becky Robinson, president and founder of Alley Cat Allies. “Like so many cases of institutionalized cruelty, there were various nonlethal options available in this situation. None were taken.”
Ospreys often nest on top of lighting or utility poles, adapting as the loss of their natural habitat exponentially increases. Many communities have osprey nest removal policies to wait until juveniles have fledged before disturbing the nest to conduct maintenance on such equipment.
Calvert County and USDA Wildlife Services did not take this simple common-sense action, or attempt to contact wildlife rehabilitators to help.
In fact, a USDA spokesperson admitted that “cooperators are given the opportunity to determine whether or not to involve a wildlife rehab facility” but chose not to do so in this case.
The USDA spokesperson also claimed that after the ospreys were stolen from their nest, they were “humanely euthanized” following American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) guidelines. These guidelines are condemned by experts and veterinary professionals because they allow lethal methods including gunshot and suffocation, which cause extreme suffering.
Alley Cat Allies has heard these kinds of excuses before. East Bay Parks also points to AVMA guidelines as a justification for the slaughter of cats on parklands.
Please keep an eye on our website at alleycat.org for ways you can join Alley Cat Allies in demanding an end to lethal policies.