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Woodpecker-Saving Girl's Mother Gets Fined $500

6:27 AM, Aug 3, 2011   |    comments
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FREDERICKSBURG, Va. (WUSA) -- Eleven-year-old aspiring veterinarian, Skylar Capo, sprang into action the second she learned that a baby woodpecker in her Dad's backyard was about to be eaten by the family cat.

"I've just always loved animals," said Skylar Capo. "I couldn't stand to watch it be eaten."

Skylar couldn't find the woodpecker's mother, so she brought it to her own mother, Alison Capo, who agreed to take it home.

"She was just going to take care of it for a day or two, make sure it was safe and uninjured, and then she was going to let it go," said Capo.

But on the drive home, the Capo family stopped at a Lowes in Fredericksburg and they brought the bird inside because of the heat. That's when they were confronted by a fellow shopper who said she worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 

"She was really nervous. She was shaking. Then she pulled out a badge," said Capo.

The problem was that the woodpecker is a protected species under the Federal Migratory Bird Act.  Therefore, it is illegal to take or transport a baby woodpecker.  The Capo family says they had no idea.

"I was a little bit upset because I didn't want my mom to get in trouble," said Skylar.

So as soon as the Capo family returned home, they say they opened the cage, the bird flew away, and they reported it to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

"They said that's great, that's exactly what we want to see," said Capo. "We thought that we had done everything that we could possibly do."

But roughly two weeks later, that same woman from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service showed up at Capo's front door. This time, Capo says the woman was accompanied by a state trooper.  Capo refused to accept a citation, but was later mailed a notice to appear in U.S. District Court for unlawfully taking a migratory bird.  She's also been slapped with a $535 fine.

"I feel harassed and I feel angry," said Capo.

"Kids should be able to save a baby bird and not end up going home crying because their mom has to pay $535. I just think that's crazy," said Skylar.

If convicted, Capo could face up to a year behind bars.

Virginia State Police just released the following statement: 

"We have confirmed that the US Fish and Wildlife agent requested our presence when they served their federal summons. The trooper stood on the porch and said nothing. We had nothing to do with the charge."

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued this statement at around 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, August 2nd:

"On June 13, a special agent with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service observed a woman carrying a cage that contained a woodpecker at a home improvement store in Fredericksburg Virg.

As possession of a bird may potentially violate the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the agent initiated an inquiry to determine whether a potential violation had occurred.

Upon speaking with the subject, later identified as Alison Capo, on June 27, the agent determined that no further action was warranted. A citation that had been previously drafted by the agent was cancelled on June 28.

Unfortunately, the citation was processed unintentionally despite our office's request to cancel the ticket. The Service has contacted Ms. Capo to express our regret. The Service is also sending Ms. Capo a formal letter explain the clerical error and confirming that ticket should never have been issued.

This misunderstanding was the result of a Service inquiry into possible violations of federal wildlife law. In particular the Service is responsible for the protection of all federally listed migratory birds. The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries did not participate in the inquiry."

 

 

See the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's apology for the citation on its website.

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