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An injured barred owl was found to have been shot, and also suffered from two broken wings. Shooting protected birds is against the law. Photo courtesy of David Bohlen, Illinois State Museum.

Prevent conflicts: Keep people and wildlife safe

April 11, 2013 at 10:52 PM

The State Journal-Register

David Bohlen found an injured barred owl by the side of the road south of Springfield last week, and he was upset when he learned what happened.

Bohlen, assistant curator of zoology at the Illinois State Museum, has seen it all when it comes to the unfortunate things that can happen to birds, but this case still set him off.

It turns out the owl had been shot.

Jacques Nuzzo of the Illinois Raptor Center in Decatur said he found two shotgun pellet holes in the bird’s chest that penetrated the muscle and the keel. The owl also had broken wings. It did not survive.

“I guess I want people to be aware you can’t do that. It’s illegal,”

Bohlen said. “Plus these birds are trying to feed young at this time of year. Shoot one of the parents and you might do in the whole nest.”

Illinois Conservation Police Sgt. Jamie Maul said officers occasionally receive reports of birds or prey or eagles that have been shot.

“We will investigate those and try to determine who the shooter is and prosecute if we can,” he said.

With the onset of spring, people are anxious to get outside. It’s also the time when conflicts between people and wildlife are more likely.

Maul said Conservation Police officers step in only when threatened or endangered species, birds of prey or other large animals that pose a safety hazard are involved.

The Illinois Conservation Police law enforcement division has released a pair of videos in recent months, one showing officers using a pruning saw with a long handle to separate two bucks that had locked antlers.

See the video here: http://tinyurl.com/lockedbucks.

Usually, when bucks become locked together, both end up dead.

Another video showed officers rescuing an injured bald eagle in northern Illinois. See: http://www.prairiestateoutdoors.com.

“Those are unique situations, and we have to assist in those situations,” Maul said. “What we will do (as in the case of the tangled bucks) is we will try to get them unlocked.”

Man vs. nature

Spring is a busy time for the Illinois Conservation Police, said Maul, who has been with the department for 24 years.

“During the spring, you might check fishermen, work in a state park, make a drug arrest or respond to an animal nuisance report,” he said.

“In the spring, you never know what the day will hold.

“The main thing I want to stress is when it comes to typical conflicts with animals, particularly furbearers (like raccoons, squirrels, rabbits and opossums), we don’t do the removal ourselves,” Maul said.

“People call and say, ‘You’ve got to get this raccoon out of my garage,’ and we just don’t have the manpower to respond to every one of those types of calls.”

He recommends people refer to the Living with Wildlife in Illinois website that includes listings for state wildlife biologists and animal nuisance removal professionals. Visit: http://web.extension.illinois.edu/wildlife.

The site also includes common sense information on avoiding wildlife conflicts.

But when inevitable conflicts occur, Maul said Conservation Police officers and state wildlife biologists are authorized to issue nuisance permits to landowners or homeowners that allow them to resolve the problem.

Restrictions on shooting

Bohlen said that when he first discovered the owl, he walked around it to see how badly it was hurt.

“Without picking it up and examining it, I thought it had been brushed by a car and would snap out of it and fly away,” he said.

Birds that fly into windows or other obstructions sometimes recover on their own after a time, and are better left alone. But this barred owl did not survive its injuries.

Neither did the bald eagle rescued near Hanover. Illinois DNR spokesman Chris McCloud said the eagle suffered a collapsed lung.

McCloud said Conservation Police assist with the recovery of injured or dead bald eagles eight to 12 times per year.

Bohlen said it is important that people understand it is illegal to shoot birds except some migratory birds that can be taken by licensed hunters during legal hunting seasons.

All birds, except pigeons, European starlings and English house sparrows are protected.

Bald eagles are no longer listed as threatened in the Lower 48 states, but they still enjoy extra legal protection under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.

Chris Young can be reached at (217) 788-1528. Follow him at twitter.com/ChrisYoungPSO.

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