Government Bird Brains

Published August 17, 2011

A Fredericksburg, Virginia mother faced a fine of $535 and up to a year in prison after her daughter rescued an orphaned woodpecker about to be devoured by the family cat.

Skylar Capo, 11, found the bird in her dad’s backyard being stalked by the cat. She couldn’t find the mother bird, so she and her mother, Alison Capo, decided to take it home in a cage, make sure it was not injured, and released it. “I’ve just always loved animals,” said Skylar, who wants to be a veterinarian. “I couldn’t stand to watch it be eaten.”

On the way home, though, they stopped at a home improvement store. It was hot, so they took the cage into the store. There they were spotted by another customer who is an agent for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The agent pulled out a badge, informed the mother and daughter they were violating the federal Migratory Bird Act, and initiated an investigation.

Meanwhile, the mother and daughter took the baby bird home, determined it was healthy, and released it. About two weeks later, the agent and a Virginia state trooper showed up at Alison Capo’s home with the $535 ticket. When the mother refused to accept it, she was mailed a citation and notice of a court hearing.

After the incident was publicized, the Virginia state police said they simply accompanied the Fish and Wildlife agent to the Capo house. “The trooper stood on the porch and said nothing,” the state police said. “We had nothing to do with the charge.”

The Fish and Wildlife Service later said the citation was issued in error.

Source: “Woodpecker-Saving Daughter Gets Fined $500,” 9 News Now (Washington, DC), August 2, 2011