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Two juvenile ospreys euthanized for maintenance of Calvert County ball park lights

Two juvenile ospreys were taken from their nest Monday at Calvert County’s Cove Point Park in Lusby, then euthanized – this because of maintenance on lights.

Juvenile ospreys are currently in the process of fledging from their nests in Maryland or within days/a couple of weeks of doing so.

But these ospreys never had the chance to fledge.

Cove Point Park ballfield. Calvert County photo.

According to Tanya Espinosa, public affairs specialist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection (USDA APHIS), “Under a Cooperative Services Agreement with the county, Wildlife Services removed the birds as they were impeding the replacement/repair of the lights.”

Quite often, ospreys will nest atop lights or utility poles, but many will wait for nesting season to be over before doing any type of maintenance.

Espinosa continued, “Cooperators are given the opportunity to determine whether or not to involve a wildlife rehab facility. In this situation, they decided not to involve a wildlife rehab facility.  The birds were humanely euthanized using methods approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association.”

While no wildlife rehabilitator was contacted about the two juvenile ospreys, the president of Maryland Wildlife Rehabilitators Association (MWRA) wished they would have been.

“Any one of the rehabilitators would have been happy to take care of them and that they probably only had another week to go … which means the work could have been postponed,” explained Kathleen Woods, MWRA’s president and executive director of Phoenix Wildlife Center.

Photos of the ospreys being captured were shared Monday on the MD Birding Facebook group in a since deleted post – several people questioned why it happened, as ospreys are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in coordination with APHIS, can issue depredation permits for legally taking protected migratory birds in some situations.

According to the APHIS website, “Although the USDA Wildlife Services Program is not a regulatory program, we have a role in some regulatory processes. Wildlife Services biologists conduct damage evaluations to provide information to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the state wildlife agency as part of their permit processes. WS provides technical assistance to callers with migratory bird conflicts. In some cases, lethal take may be required to resolve these issues or reinforce the effectiveness of non-lethal dispersal. In such cases, WS biologists complete an evaluation form (Form 37) that describes the incident and documents our recommendations for management options. When lethal take is recommended, those forms are forwarded by the applicant with applications and application fee for Federal Migratory Bird Depredation Permits.”

In the Facebook post, there were several people wearing shirts from a company called Lighting Maintenance, along with a man wearing a shirt and hat with the USDA logo – he was photographed putting the ospreys in a pet transport container.

Ospreys migrate to Maryland from southern areas, such as Florida, Central and South America, to mate and raise their young, before going back to warmer areas for the winter.

For these two adult ospreys, these were their only young born this year.

“Ospreys are not considered threatened or endangered or a species of concern in the State of Maryland,” offered Espinosa.

Even so, this decision isn’t sitting right with many people, including Woods.

“So sad they didn’t reach out,” she said.

“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,” according to Sarah Ehman, public information program manager for Calvert County.

Ehman 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.”

Lighting Maintenance opted not to release a statement.

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Update – Calvert County released another statement Wednesday –

“The Calvert County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) has issued the following statement regarding the removal of an osprey nest from a light pole at Cove Point Park:

“We have received a number of comments and questions regarding the removal of an osprey nest from a light pole at Cove Point Park.

Because the nest was located in an area adjacent to a ball field, the nest posed a risk to the safety of the public; the light pole at Cove Point Park is not equipped to accommodate the presence of ospreys. The presence of the nest could endanger visitors to Cove Point Park with the risk of falling sticks or other nesting material.

Calvert County Government enlisted the services of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Wildlife Services, through a cooperative services agreement, to remove the nest. Due to the nature of this agreement, 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. For the safety of the birds we often enlist the services of USDA.

Moving forward we will work to ensure that any ospreys removed from county property will be relocated and will communicate this position with USDA. We appreciate and value the outpouring of concern for our county’s natural resources. The county is in the process of installing lights equipped to safely accommodate the presence of ospreys at our parks, to enable wildlife to coexist in our recreation spaces.”

Donna L. Cole is an award-winning investigative and multimedia reporter who works for WNAV News. She’s also a volunteer bird of prey rescuer.