Monday, December 8, 2008

Migratory Bird Treaty Act

There has recently been some very disturbing news reported on the Ohio Birding listserv. It seems that some people in Cleveland, Ohio have absolutely no respect for birds and most likely wildlife in general. They are committing disgusting crimes against birds and are going completely unpunished. While it may be hard to catch these criminals, they would most likely be barely punished if they did happen to be caught. Before we get to that, let me explain the situation that has caused me to begin to look into these weak penalties.

Two of the situations occurred on the same day at the same lakefront park in Cleveland, Ohio. In the morning, someone drove a vehicle through a group of gulls sitting in the parking lot. This resulted in the death of at least 20 Ring-billed Gulls and the injury of a number of others. No one saw this happen and the individual that did this will undoubtedly go unpunished for this disgusting crime.

The second situation occurred at the same park and is just as disturbing if not more so. A birder observed two men pull up get out of their truck corner and catch a Canada Goose, kill it and proceed to dump the dead goose in a dumpster and drive away. While there is a description of the vehicle and the individuals that committed this crime, it is unlikely that they will ever be caught. Luckily for them, their license plate was covered by snow and the birder that viewed this incident was unable to record the plate number.

These two situations point to a much larger problem. Both of these crimes are a violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act but this legislation carries such a weak penalty that it is hardly a deterrent to people who have no respect for wildlife. Currently if you are caught in violation of this act, you are subject to at most a misdemeanor that carries a maximum of a $15000 fine and up to 6 months in jail. While that may seem like a lot, courts rarely hand out these penalties. The courts have so many felony cases, that such a “small” misdemeanor hardly ever gets much attention.

In November of 2007, a bill was introduced to the United State Congress that would finally give the Migratory Bird Treaty Act some teeth. It would make any intentional killing of a bird in violation of the act a felony with a maximum fine of $50,000 and a one year prison sentence. Any other violation would also be a felony with a maximum $25,000 and a six month prison sentence. While this is a much better deterrent, little can be accomplished without additional policing. These proposed changes do little if there are not more people out actively seeking to catch and prosecute the perpetrators of these crimes.

1 comment:

Chad said...

Good post...! I would have liked to been the birder who witnessed them doing this!