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Mother almost fined $535, threatened with year in prison after daughter rescued baby woodpecker

Friday, August 12, 2011 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer
Tags: woodpeckers, rescue, health news

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(NaturalNews) When 11-year-old Skylar Capo from Fredericksburg, Va., recently rescued a baby woodpecker from being eaten by her family's cat, she had no idea that the compassionate deed would nearly land her mother in jail. According to WUSA 9, a secret agent from the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), after witnessing Skylar and her mother Alison with the bird at a local Lowe's Home Improvement store, tracked the family down and slapped it with a $535 fine and potential jail time for illegally taking a protected animal species.

Skylar first spotted the woodpecker in the backyard of her father's home where she had been staying. Observing that the family cat was about to pounce and eat the bird, Skylar immediately ran outside to save it. But because they were unable to find its mother, Skylar and her mom decided to take the bird home and release it back into the wild after a few days.

On the way home, however, the two made a stop at a local Lowe's Home Improvement store to pick up a few things, and their innocent hospitality was met by the cold, heavy hand of overzealous bureaucracy. Due to the intense heat of the day, Alison and Skylar decided to bring the woodpecker inside the store to keep it from dying, only to be spotted by a secret FWS agent that confronted them and flashed her badge at them.

The agent nervously explained that it was illegal to take woodpeckers from the wild because they are a protected species under the Federal Migratory Bird Act. Alison responded by explaining her unawareness of this fact, and indicated she and her daughter would release the bird back into the wild once they got back home.

At this point, Alison believed she had done everything necessary to comply with the law, and even took the time to contact FWS to let it know she had released the bird. But the same FWS agent that confronted her and Skylar showed up unannounced at the family's doorstep about two weeks later with a state trooper, and issued the family a citation. Alison refused it, and was later sent a notice to appear in US District Court, as well issued as a $535 fine.

"I feel harassed, and I feel angry," said Alison to WUSA 9. Her daughter also expressed concern that doing what they thought was the right thing for the bird almost landed her mother in prison.

Several months later, however, after much inquiry into the matter, the federal agency issued a formal apology for its actions and explained that the charges were supposed to have been dropped. FWS claimed it had made a "clerical error" by failing to both remove the citation from its system, as well as contact the Capos and let them know that they were actually in the clear.

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