Protected bird found shot in Venetian Isles

- A large, endangered bird was found shot in the Venetian Isles area Thursday, reminding the St. Petersburg community of a problem they hoped was in the past.

Six birds have been found with apparent bullet wounds within a one mile radius over the past several years. Most recently, a turkey vulture was the target.

"It was clear that he had a broken wing, and he couldn't get any lift off from the ground whatsoever," said Laura Maidenberg, who found the injured bird on Venetian Boulevard.

After removing a bullet from the vulture's wing, veterinarians had to put it down due to the severity of the bird's injuries.

"I rescue birds and it's very distressing to see anybody who's intentionally murdering birds," said Maidenberg.

Since 2012, six birds haven been found wounded in the Venetian Isles and Shore Acres area. In July of 2015, two ospreys were spotted with bullet wounds to the wings and chest. In total, four ospreys, one blue heron and most recently one turkey vulture have become victims.

"It started with pellets, and the last couple of them have been with a bullet or a large slug," said Barbara Walker with Tampa Bay Raptor Rescue. "We're really concerned about the escalation and the consistency of these shootings over the last several years."

Like osprey, turkey vultures are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which means shooting them is a federal offense.

Raptor Rescue is offering a $1,500 reward for information leading to an arrest. It is encouraging the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC), as well as local authorities, to take urgent action before more animals are hurt.

"We all live on the nature coast to enjoy the beautiful wildlife that we inhabit, and we need to live amongst it, not live against it," said Maidenberg.

Anyone with information on the shootings can report a tip to the FWC by calling 888-404-3922.

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