FWC is investigating possible illegal feeding at nest of missing eagle
Feeding eagles is prohibited under state and federal law. On Sunday, one person was seen placing something at the base of the tree, where two eaglets and male M15 remain after the female Harriet left.
The Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission on Monday said it was investigating possible illegal feeding activities near the nest of bald eagles Harriet, M15 and their eaglets in North Fort Myers.
Harriet, the female, has not been seen around the Bayshore Road nest since late Thursday, raising concerns and comments from online viewers of the popular Southwest Florida Eagle Cam. Viewers have seen M15 apparently caring for two month-old eaglets.
Some observers in the website's chat area have made suggestions about placing food at the tree and other recommendations, some of which go against federal laws governing protected species.
On Sunday afternoon, one person could be seen at the nest site, inside the fence and placing something at the base of the tree. That area, private property owned by Pritchett Real Estate, is off-limits to the public.
Another person posted on Facebook that food actually was placed at the tree: " M15 ate food from the pasture put there by loving friends of H&M. M ate a much needed meal without leaving the pasture as I said would work & I would do myself if I was there! All 3 Eagles ate dinner. M is one step closer to saving his babies."
An FWC official on Monday said the agency is looking into the activity.
"Feeding eagles is specifically prohibited under the state’s eagle rule. This situation is under investigation by law enforcement," said Carly Jones from the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Jones added that, in the past, the FWC has deferred to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the local permitted eagle rehab facility about when it is appropriate to intervene in events at a nest (e.g. injuries, abandonment, illness).
"FWC is currently working with partners to determine if and how intervention at the nest is necessary," she said.
Bald eagles are protected by state and federal law.
In Florida, the statute includes: "No person shall take, feed, disturb, possess, sell, purchase or barter any bald eagle or parts thereof, or their nests or eggs, or attempt to engage in any such conduct."
There are two federal laws protecting eagles, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. Click here for information on the federal laws.
Feeding eagles could change the bird's natural feeding behavior and cause them to associate people with food, leading to an increased risk of conflict and injury (e.g., increased likelihood of being struck by a vehicle).
Regarding Harriet, the FWC said it does not track specific eagles and was unable to speculate what happened to the bird.