Two ospreys dead after tornado in Edgewater and an eagle nest damaged
Fortunately no humans were killed as a result of the EF-2 tornado that hit Edgewater and Annapolis Wednesday with 125 mph winds, however the same can not be said for birds – in Edgewater, one osprey died from its injuries, another was euthanized because its injuries were too severe and an unoccupied bald eagle nest was damaged.
Those are just the birds that are known about.
The osprey that died almost immediately after the tornado was found on the sidewalk near PNC Bank on Solomons Island Road in Edgewater, directly across the street from an osprey nest.
A video shows the tornado approaching the same area with a juvenile osprey in the nest – it’s believed this might have been the same osprey that was killed.
Joshua Giles, of Solomons Island, was driving, saw the bird on the sidewalk, realized it shouldn’t be on the ground and stopped to help it.
Giles contacted Suzanne Shoemaker, director of Owl Moon Raptor Center – she asked if he could bring the bird to me.
Full disclosure – I’m a volunteer bird of prey rescuer for Owl Moon Raptor Center and I live in Edgewater.
The bird was dead by the time it arrived at my house.
It was an extremely sad moment as Giles and I stood in my garage while I quickly examined the lifeless bird – it appeared to have impact injuries.
Shortly before Giles arrived, another call had come in for another osprey.
Just north of the first incident and on the north side of the South River bridge, Deborah Schneider, a homeowner in the Shadow Point neighborhood posted on Facebook requesting help with a downed osprey in her backyard. This neighborhood was also in the direct path of the tornado and had a lot of downed trees.
I was tagged on the post and I made contact with Schneider.
I told her I would respond as soon as it was safe to do so – torrential rain and wind were still an issue.
A lull in the storm allowed me just enough time to travel the one mile between my house and Shadow Point.
Schneider had originally told me to look for her mailbox with the address on it – she then realized the mailbox had been taken down by the tornado. She also provided me a pair of boots – neither of us had realized the extent of the damage in Shadow Point and I was wearing shorts and sneakers.
With boots on and Schneider’s son, Gary Mitchell, leading the way, it took approximately 10 minutes to get to the osprey because of downed trees and debris in the way.
In a relatively unscathed corner of Schneider’s fenced backyard was the osprey. I quickly grabbed it and again, with the help of Mitchell, we climbed over downed trees and branches and got the the bird to my car.
According to Lisa Smith, executive director of Tri-State, “Unfortunately, both the radius and ulna were badly fractured near the carpal joint, and the bird was euthanized.”
She added, “Thank you for rescuing this bird – it would have died a slow, painful death in the wild. Sometimes the best we can do is relieve their suffering.”
With the amount of trees down in Schneider’s yard, it’s not surprising the bird had severe injuries.
Schneider said it took, “seven guys seven hours” to clean up the debris.
She said an eagle nest she can see from her backyard was also damaged – eagle nesting season is over for this year and they will have time to rebuild or relocate in advance of next year – if they survived.
Schneider texted she’s, “A little concerned that I haven’t seen or heard them since the tornado.”
Backing up in time, Wednesday morning had started off fairly quiet, At 12:13 pm, I got a call from Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research about an injured osprey in Queen Anne’s County. I knew I had a little time before the bad weather started to move in so I went.
I arrived at Piney Narrows Yacht Haven at 12:59 pm and quickly rescued that bird. I took it to the US-301 Bay Country Rest Area in Centreville, where I transferred it a Tri-State volunteer transporter who would transfer it to another volunteer transporter in Middletown, De., who would deliver it to Tri-State. Yes, these rescues/transports often require a lot of helping hands.
I was in the car in Kent Narrows when I got the call from my daughter who told me she had just gotten the tornado warning.
I was on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge when I saw the tornado in the area of the South River – not far from my house. I called my daughter back to ensure she and our dog were in the basement and I stayed on the phone with her until I got home – I was panicked for her, but I didn’t tell her why or that I had seen the tornado and this was a horrible feeling.
From my house to Shadow Point is about a mile. From my house to the area of Annapolis that got hit badly is a little under two miles.
Although I’ve been rescuing birds for over two years, I had, fortunately, not encountered any dead birds until this tornado. I wasn’t even sure what to do with the dead osprey that was brought to me – there is a protocol for eagles, but not ospreys.
I asked Shoemaker – she said to return it the wild, in the woods, where it can benefit other wildlife.
Every time I drive by the osprey nest on Solomons Island Road, I look for the ospreys – it was getting late in the season for a bird to still be in the nest and I’d comment to my daughter each time that it should be going south to its winter home.
On Saturday, I had emailed BGE’s Communications Manager Richard Yost, about that nest – when ospreys nest on BGE’s equipment, it’s can be dangerous for the birds and the equipment.
I also alerted Yost that the osprey guard next to the nest platform at the base of the northside of the South River Bridge was hanging down.
In other words, these birds mean a lot to me.
As for the osprey I rescued in Queen Anne’s County before the storm hit, Smith emailed, “It had a large, single-barbed fishing hook embedded in the skin over the left wing, with fishing line wrapped around the wing and entangled in the primaries. There was some swelling of the soft tissues, but overall, I think it has a good prognosis.”
Fortunately there’s no shortage of news reports about tornado damage incurred by humans – those reports can help the National Weather Service classify the intensity of the tornado and can communicate how others can help those who suffered losses.
There is, however, a shortage of information about what happens to birds and other wildlife during tornadoes – I’ve now seen it.
Donna L. Cole is an award-winning investigative/multimedia reporter. She’s also a volunteer bird of prey rescuer.
Despite heroic measures to save eagle hanging from a tree with fishing line in Southern Maryland, it didn’t make it
Monofilament fishing line took the life of a juvenile bald eagle found hanging from a tree in a state-owned Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Nanjemoy, Md.
The eagle was spotted August 20 by Ginger Azuree and Sue Kaspar who were on a boat, not far from their house.
“We immediately freaked out,” said Azuree.
Azuree said she and Kaspar returned to their home, gathered tools and their phones while also trying to find help from anyone including neighbors, Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP) and wildlife rehabilitation facilities.
Only one neighbor could be found and with his help, the three were able to get the eagle down using a lopper pole. The bird, which had been caught up with fishing line, was still alive, but not in good shape.
NRP Officer First Class James Edward Major arrived and helped box the eagle, but according to Azuree, he said he was unable to transport the bird because he was the only NRP officer on duty in Southern Maryland.
Azuree said she got in touch with Suzanne Shoemaker, director of Owl Moon Raptor Center who arranged to have Mary Hollinger, an Owl Moon volunteer rescuer/transporter, meet the women in Calvert County.
Despite all the heroic measures to save the young eagle, it died from its injuries.
Hollinger posted on Facebook, “I transport a lot of injured birds, but I’m making this post public, to show the horrors of discarded fishing line. This beautiful young bald eagle was found dangling from a tree, all tangled up in the stuff. Rescuers managed to get it down and cut most of the line off, but the damage was too severe, and it died on the way to wildlife rehabilitators. Such a tragic, unnecessary death.”
According to Azuree, there’s been ongoing issues with debris, including fishing line, left at Nanjemoy WMA.
According to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) website, the mission of the Wildlife Management Area system is “To conserve and enhance diverse wildlife populations and associated habitats while providing for public enjoyment of the State’s wildlife resources through hunting and other wildlife-dependent recreation.”
The website continues, “WMAs are primarily managed for hunting, trapping and other wildlife-dependent recreational uses.”
This area is well-known for its wildlife.
“At Nanjemoy WMA you are likely to see a variety of wildlife ranging from turkey, deer and foxes in the forests to Great Blue Herons, Eagles, Turtles and Ospreys along the river and in the wetlands,” states DNR’s website.
Azuree now questions if she should do more having seen the damage fishing line can do to wildlife.
“I’m devastated that she died,” said Azuree. “Should I visit the beach more? Do we need to be more aware?”
She also questions why other people aren’t cleaning up after themselves.
“It’s okay to fish – just clean up after yourself,” Azuree said. “Clean up your fishing line. It’s just incomprehensible to me that people are that irresponsible.”
Donna L. Cole is an award-winning investigative and multimedia reporter. She’s also a volunteer bird of prey rescuer.
Two vulture chicks removed from nest on construction site in DC, then killed by USDA APHIS WS
Two vulture chicks were recently removed from their nest at a construction site in Washington, D.C., then killed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Wildlife Services (USDA APHIS WS).
“A WS biologist removed two juvenile vultures from a building that was to be torn down for safety reasons, emailed Tanya Espinosa, public affairs specialist for USDA APHIS. “The vultures were not close to fledging. WS removed the nest and euthanized two immature birds under the authority of a depredation permit issued to Wildlife Services by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.”
No wildlife rehabilitation facilities were contacted by APHIS WS about the young vultures, despite that the birds would’ve been able to live had this been done.
According to a 2016 Facebook post by Owl Moon Raptor Center, “These adorable big baby black vultures were separated from their parents when the old building their nest was in was demolished, and the surrounding landscape mowed down. They need to be raised by adult vultures to learn how to live in the wild. We have successfully fostered baby vultures into other black vulture nests in the past, and we are currently looking for nests to foster these chicks into …”
Suzanne Shoemaker, director of Owl Moon, said she renested five or six juvenile vultures just this year.
Even if a surrogate nest couldn’t be found, wildlife rehabilitation facilities are able to hold birds until they’re able to fly and while following protocols to avoid human imprinting.
If transportation to a wildlife rehabilitation facilities was an issue for APHIS WS, many rehabilitators have volunteer transporters.
Jim Monsma, director of City Wildlife in Washington, D.C., heard about the removal of the chicks, but did not know what happened to them.
In an August 23 email, Monsma wrote, “I heard through various channels that within the past month, APHIS Wildlife Service removed a pair of vulture chicks (unknown whether Black or Turkey) from a shed at a construction site in DC. They say they have relocated the chicks, but they did not come to City Wildlife …”
This license to kill doesn’t just happen in this area – it’s nationwide.
After the Calvert County osprey incident, Steve Regele, president of Audubon Yellowstone Valley emailed, “Our organization and affiliates have been struggling for 12 months with a similar agency driven osprey killing situation here in Montana.”
As mentioned in an editorial about the Calvert County ospreys and subsequent public outrage, there’s no shortage of accessible information about APHIS WS, what they do and why they do it. In being tasked with handling wildlife and human conflicts and with depredation permits in hand, the wildlife is not always victorious.
Federally elected officials are the only ones with oversight of USDA APHIS WS, although the judicial system has been used many times with lawsuits.
As for the reason why the vulture chicks were killed, it was the same as the Calvert County ospreys – APHIS WS considered many factors, just not the lives of two chicks.
Espinosa’s email stated, “The most common problems associated with vultures are structural damage, loss of aesthetic value and property use related to offensive odors and appearance, depredation to livestock and pets, and air traffic safety. As trained and dedicated wildlife management professionals, WS carefully considers the decision to remove individual birds and lethal removal is done with consideration for the population of the species as a whole. “
In other words, it was two baby birds that happened to have been born in the wrong place at the wrong time and with a propensity for odor that comes from their extremely important role as nature’s clean-up crew.
As for who requested USDA’s help evicting and/or killing the vultures, Espinosa’s email didn’t offer an explanation, only that it was a request from a “cooperator.”
When asked, she emailed, “… I can’t release that information as it is protected by the Privacy Act.”
There’s no shortage of frustration from local wildlife rehabilitators with now two cases where baby birds could have been spared death.
“We would have definitely rehabbed those and I feel kind of responsible because that’s D.C. – that’s our turf,” said Monsma. “We would’ve taken them in.”
“Once again, no rehabilitators were contacted and there’s enough of us around that one of us would have been happy to take the vulture chicks,” said Kathleen Woods, president of the Maryland Wildlife Rehabilitators Association.
(Cover photo by USFWS of two vulture chicks that are unrelated to this incident)
Donna L. Cole is an award-winning investigative and multimedia reporter. She’s also a volunteer bird of prey rescuer.
Calvert County Administrator signed agreement okaying euthanasia of juvenile ospreys
Who’s to blame for two juvenile ospreys being euthanized in late July in Calvert County so that maintenance could be done on ball park lights?
Calvert County officials have consistently maintained, since this to story came to light (I was the first to report the birds were euthanized), they didn’t know the birds would be euthanized under an agreement they signed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Wildlife Services (USDA APHIS WS).
Let’s take a look at that agreement.
Maybe Calvert County Administrator Mark Willis didn’t read what he signed? Maybe he missed the part in the agreement that states, “If relocation of the nest is not possible or deemed appropriate, then WS will dispose of the eggs or young.”
Or maybe he thought he’d be consulted once USDA APHIS WS had the agreement signed and their employee was on the lift taking the birds?
So, who’s to blame?
The birds being taken from the nest and subsequently euthanized would have happened had Calvert County not requested help from APHIS.
It doesn’t matter what Calvert County had seen in the past, as mentioned in a recent Washington Post article about the incident – this agreement, signed by Willis, gave USDA APHIS WS the authority the euthanize the birds.
The birds might not have been euthanized had Calvert County done any due diligence about USDA APHIS or the agreement they signed. I wrote about this in a recent editorial.
As for the excuse that an osprey nest was posing a hazard to humans – until someone can show evidence of anyone being injured or killed by an osprey nest, that excuse just doesn’t fly.
Thanks to Chris Hoffman for the photos he shared that originally brought all of this to light. And for sharing the photos with me also.
Donna L. Cole is an award-winning investigative and multimedia reporter. She’s also a volunteer bird of prey rescuer.
Editorial: public outrage following euthanasia of ospreys is warranted. I’m outraged and heartbroken too.
In an inexplicable act of cruelness, the federal government euthanized two juvenile ospreys in Calvert County Monday and while officials have offered statements that attempt to explain why it was done, many people remain outraged – I am one of them.
Calvert County officials have released multiple statements in the wake of two juvenile ospreys being euthanized because of maintenance to ball park lights at Cove Point Park in Lusby – this after the county itself “requested assistance” from the arm of a federal agency that often kills wildlife.
The first of these statements reads, “Calvert County requested assistance with removal of an osprey nest from a light pole from USDA APHIS-WS, as the location of the nest posed a risk to the health and safety of people, including youth, using the ball fields at Cove Point Park.”
What risk to humans does an osprey nest on a light pole pose?
A branch/stick might fall on or near a human, but I’m not entirely sure this has ever happened.
It’s also possible during a high wind storm, such as a hurricane or tornado, that a nest could be blown down and a human could be hit with many sticks/branch or maybe even a juvenile osprey.
Normally, humans aren’t using ball fields during high wind storms, such as hurricanes or tornados.
Even during the tornado that hit Edgewater in 2020, the one that took out the South Riverkeeper’s boat, the osprey nest at the base of the South River Bridge remained perfectly fine – the ospreys had likely already migrated south.
Calvert County’s statement continued, “USDA Wildlife Services determined that nest relocation was not possible. Newer light poles being installed include osprey nesting platforms to more safely accommodate the presence of ospreys at county parks. These platforms have already been installed at Dunkirk District Park, Hallowing Point Park and Cove Point Park and are in use by osprey at these locations.”
Following receipt of this statement, Calvert County was asked, “The next question that everyone will ask is why couldn’t this wait until the juvenile ospreys fledged?”
No reply was received.
The reason no reply was received was likely because no one has a good answer. There is no rational answer – the light maintenance could’ve waited.
Ospreys migrate to Maryland and other points north in early spring to mate, have young and raise them before moving back to southern areas in the late summer, early fall.
While in Maryland, ospreys construct their nests and do constant maintenance on them, mate, sit on eggs and finally, if the eggs hatch, they feed their chicks until the birds are old enough to fledge. This is a laborious process that only happens once a year.
Calvert County officials admitted they “requested assistance with removal of an osprey nest from a light pole from USDA APHIS-WS.”
But what due diligence did the county do before requesting assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Wildlife Services?
According to its website, “The mission of USDA APHIS Wildlife Services (WS) is to provide Federal leadership and expertise to resolve wildlife conflicts to allow people and wildlife to coexist.”
A large part of resolving “wildlife conflicts” means eradicating wildlife and the APHIIS Wildlife Services is given that authorization by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) – even with migratory birds protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
The release states, “According to the latest report, the federal program last year intentionally killed 301 gray wolves; 61,882 adult coyotes, plus an unknown number of coyote pups in 251 destroyed dens; 364,734 red-winged blackbirds; 393 black bears; 300 mountain lions; 777 bobcats; 124 river otters plus 489 killed “unintentionally”; 2,447 foxes, plus an unknown number of red fox pups in 94 dens; and 24,543 beavers.”
The release continues, “According to the new data, the wildlife-killing program unintentionally killed more than 2,624 animals in 2019, including bears, bobcats, mountain lions, a wolf, foxes, muskrats, otters, porcupines, raccoons and turtles. Its killing of non-target birds included ducks, eagles, swallows, herons and turkeys.”
Yes, it is illegal for everyone else to kill these birds, but it’s okay for APHIS Wildlife Services to do it and as in this case, they did it without input from wildlife rehabilitation facilities that would have been able to keep the ospreys until they were ready to fledge or renest them at another location with another set of parents (this is done regularly with success).
I don’t want to give the impression that APHIS Wildlife Services only kills wildlife.
This interview with APHIS Wildlife Services personnel, which was done in August of last year is about the invention of a device, which reduces the number of collisions between vehicle and deer, was done in August 2020.
Calvert County released another statement, this one to the public, following outrage over the euthanasia of the juvenile ospreys. The blame was put on USDA APHIS Wildlife Services or as stated, “Calvert County Government was not consulted or informed as to why or how the decision was made to euthanize the juveniles in the nest rather than relocate.”
In other words, Calvert County requested help and had an agreement with the arm of a federal agency that often kills wildlife, while still maintaining “the presence of the nest could endanger visitors.”
Cathy Lemp, of Rockville, was outraged over the euthanizing of the ospreys.
She sent sent an email to Calvert County Administrator Mark Willis stating, “I volunteer with a raptor rehabilitator in Montgomery County that would have been happy to help ensure these ospreys fledged successfully, and there is simply no excuse for this sort of wanton destruction of our precious wildlife. I urge you to prevent anything like this from happening again.”
Willis replied, “While I appreciate your personal opinion, it was wrongly directed. However, as the County Administrator, I will take responsibility to ensure the federal agency that conducted this action is consulted. This type of maintenance has occurred in the past and in those cases, the raptors were placed in proper care until release. We had no reason to believe this would not be the case here. Like you, I believe in protecting all wildlife.”
The email thread continued back and forth, with Lemp apologizing to Willis and he replied to her.
“No apologies necessary … I love the passion. Please know that we have already pushed back on the USDA folks to follow our county’s “no kill” desires. While I realize there may be a time when an animal may require euthanasian (1.), this was clearly not one of them. We have raptor experts on staff that could and will in the future manage situations of this nature…until such time as a more humane solution is found.
1. The painless killing of a patient suffering from an incurable and painful disease or in an irreversible coma.
Keep up the fight and know that I and the Board of County Commissioners support correcting this situation.”
Calvert County Administrator
With these statements, Calvert County is creating more questions than answers, as is the revelation that they have “raptor experts.”
Was there any due diligence done by Calvert County about what APHIS Wildlife Services does? About osprey behavior or when they fledge? Or even a call placed to their “raptor experts?”
I’ve seen mention, though I don’t know for sure, that the nest has been on this light pole for years.
But let’s say this was just a recent decision by Calvert County. The birds begin to nest in spring. If maintenance is needed do it before or after nesting season – it’s as simple as that.
Why, with less than a few weeks, from when these birds would’ve fledged, couldn’t this work wait?
The bottom line here – don’t hire a hit man if you don’t want someone killed (don’t hire a hit man period – it’s illegal).
Chris Beasley, of Calvert County, sent an email to APHIS Wildlife Services with several questions. He forwarded me the response received from David S. Reinhold, wildlife biologist and director, operational support.
“Thank you for contacting Wildlife Services (WS) and for your concern about the osprey nest and the immature birds removed from Cove Point Park earlier this week. WS provides federal leadership and expertise to resolve conflicts to allow people and wildlife to coexist. The WS program uses an integrated approach to solving conflicts, such as those associated with osprey, and considers a wide range of lethal and non-lethal methods. We respect your concerns and appreciate the opportunity to respond.
At the request of Calvert County Parks (CCP), a WS biologist removed an osprey nest with immature birds located on a light fixture at CCP’s Cove Point Park in Lusby, MD. The County requested the removal due to human health and safety and property maintenance concerns. WS removed the nest and euthanized two immature birds under the authority of a depredation permit issued to Wildlife Services by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. WS estimated the immature birds to be 30-days of age and not close to fledging.
WS works closely with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the US Fish and Wildlife Services to ensure sound management decisions. Osprey population recovery has been a conservation success in this region. Once nearly extirpated before the 1970s due to use of certain pesticides, the Chesapeake Bay area is now home to more than 2,000 nesting pairs. As trained and dedicated wildlife management professionals, WS carefully considers the decision to remove individual birds and lethal removal is done with consideration for the population of the species as a whole.
WS appreciates the outpouring of offers to assist with rehabilitation and/or transport to a rehabilitator. WS has a history of working successfully with rehabilitation programs and will partner with third party entities with permitted authority, as appropriate, to handle migratory birds in future projects.”
David S. Reinhold
wildlife biologist and director, operational support.
In other words, APHIS Wildlife Services rationale was because there’s enough ospreys right now, we can kill the babies after the osprey parents successfully made the trip from their winter homes (possibly as far away as South America) to Maryland, then readied their nest, then successfully mated, then successfully laid eggs, then successfully incubated the eggs, then successfully saw the chicks hatch, then successfully raised their chicks – just short of fledging.
They just saw no need to contact a wildlife rehabilitator who have ability to renest/relocate juvenile ospreys.
Make no mistake, this was cruel and completely unnecessary.
With all the outrage, many have asked who to contact that might be able to help prevent it from happening again.
An email from a reader asks, “Why don’t you put any links in your article so people can complain? The tone of the article was obviously one of derision so why not give out the contact info of all the people that participated so other people can voice the contempt.”
I appreciate the question and the desire to know who to direct your questions and complaints to about the euthanasia of the two ospreys.
In a news story, the job of a journalist is to present the facts and I did that with the article that brought this story to light. I can’t tell you that you should complain – that would be biased and we’re supposed to be unbiased.
In an editorial, we can share opinions. This is an editorial.
As for my opinion, I’m outraged, horrified and so very heartbroken this happened. This warrants people letting their elected representatives and bird-related conservation organizations know how you feel.
That said, I don’t have the time to look up contact information for all of these people and nonprofits. In addition to being a journalist, I’m a busy mom and a bird of prey rescuer. I do this stuff every day. During osprey fledging season (which it is), it’s been nonstop busy and on top of that, there’s a neurological issue impacting hawks – I’ve been rescuing those too.
This morning (Friday), I’ve just returned from two, juvenile osprey rescues.
But since people want to know who to reach out to, elected officials at the federal and county levels, as well as bird-related conservation organizations, would my best suggestions. This is not a state issue.
The USFWS gives authority to APHIS Wildlife Service to do what they do.
An email I sent to USFWS states, “A lot of people, including me, would like to know what part, if any, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service played in this decision? If USFWS was aware of it, why couldn’t this wait two weeks for the birds to fledge? And if USFWS wasn’t consulted, will there be any action now?”
This will be updated if a response is received. I’m told one is forthcoming.
Update – the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provided the following:
“Here are the responses to your questions from our Migratory Birds program:
Q. What part, if any, did the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service play in this decision?
R. Beyond issuing an annual depredation permit to MD USDA Wildlife Services, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service did not play a direct role in this decision.
Q. If USFWS wasn’t consulted, are you planning any follow-up action?
R. We are working closely with USDA and evaluating the situation to address any potential issues.”
Donna L. Cole is a award-winning investigative and multimedia reporter who works for WNAV News. She’s also a volunteer bird of prey rescuer.