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Federal authorities look for suspects in raptor shootings

Glen Moberg, Wisconsin Public Radio

Federal authorities are looking for suspects responsible for killing four federally protected raptors — two nesting ospreys, an osprey chick, and a barred owl — in Bayfield County.

At least two of the birds were shot, and it's suspected that a third one was as well.

The first bird to die was an adult male osprey that was brought to wildlife rehabilitator Marge Gibson's Raptor Education Group Center in Antigo with a gunshot wound to its wing. That bird eventually died.

After the osprey had been brought in to the center, Gibson a call from birdwatchers who had noticed hungry osprey chicks screaming in a nest in the Chequamegon National Forest in southern Bayfield County.

“The babies just were screaming and screaming, and (the birdwatchers) mentioned that they hadn't seen either parent for several days,” said Gibson. “The babies both jumped, and one jumped into traffic and was hit by a car and killed, and the other one landed in the soft grass.”

The chick that survived is being nursed back to health.

Gibson determined that the fatally wounded male osprey was the chicks' father. She said the body of the chicks' mother was also found in the woods under the nest. The body was too decomposed to determine the cause of death, though Gibson suspects that that osprey was also shot.

“For both of the parents to be wiped out when there are still babies in the nest, it just seems to me to be kind of a special sort of individual that would do something like that,” said Gibson.

Gibson said she is worried that the offender is responsible for other protected bird shootings in the area.

“A barred owl that was shot in the face, and some other birds,” said Gibson. “We're not sure exactly what's going on, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is looking for the people.”

Gibson said federal authorities are working with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources on the investigation.

Editor’s Note: Anyone with information can leave an anonymous tip at the DNR violation hotline at (1-800) 847-9367.