Florida Keys

An osprey sat on a boat mast. A ‘freak accident’ brought trouble to bird and man

An osprey feeds on a barracuda off the coast of Key Largo.
An osprey feeds on a barracuda off the coast of Key Largo.

An Ohio man has been cited for shooting an osprey with a pellet gun in an attempt to shoo it off a mast on the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Ingham, a floating museum in Key West.

Josiah Michael Fetzer, 22, an employee of the museum, was cited for a second-degree misdemeanor in the shooting. He was given a court summons and not arrested.

“After five shots were heard, the bird was struck and spiraled to the ground, landing on the pier,” said Officer Bobby Dube, spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Fetzer admitted to shooting at the bird to clear it from the ship’s mast, Dube said.

The charge, the least serious one in Florida, carries a jail term of up to 60 days and a fine of up to $500 upon conviction.

Fetzer is due in Monroe County Court at 9 a.m. Sept. 7 before Judge Mark Wilson, according to the clerk of court’s docket.

The osprey, which is protected by federal and, in Monroe County, by state law, was rescued by the Key West Wildlife Center, which stopped the bleeding, and then taken to the Marathon Veterinary Hospital for surgery.

The bird, which suffered a shattered wing, made it through surgery, said Dr. Natasha Self.

“We believe it is possible for the bird to have full return to flight, and therefore the wild, although now the hard part starts, rehabilitation,” she said in an email.

The bird is at the Key West Wildlife Center.

Bill Verge, director of the Ingham museum, called the shooting a terrible accident by a new employee.

“It’s not the ship’s policy to use guns to push animals off,” Verge said Wednesday. “He wasn’t trying to kill the osprey. It wasn’t intentional. It was a freak accident.”

Verge said he wasn’t present at the time but was upset that the bird was injured.

“He’s a good kid,” Verge said of Fetzer. “A real docile kid. He was pretty shook up about it.”

Fetzer couldn’t be immediately reached Wednesday.