Falcon death under federal, state investigation
Columbus - State and federal wildlife agents are investigating the July 1 death of a peregrine falcon found on Broad Street in downtown Columbus near the LaVeque Tower.
The federally protected bird, considered threatened in Ohio, was a female named Scout and had a nest on the 41st floor of the nearby Rhodes office tower.
The DNR Division of Wildlife began its investigation after a volunteer found the dead falcon and brought it to the DOW's Division 1 headquarters, said investigator Kandi Klosterman, who also serves as acting Division 1 law supervisor.
Klosterman declined to comment on a report in The Columbus Dispatch in which an anonymous eyewitness claimed a worker at the LaVeque Tower struck the falcon with a broom before it fell to its death. The Dispatch reported the worker was installing colored filters over spotlights in preparation for the Red, White & Boom July 4 fireworks display and was trying to ward off the swooping falcon with the broom.
"There is an ongoing investigation," Klosterman said "We are still obtaining facts and will present our (findings) to the Franklin County prosecutor's office."
Killing a peregrine falcon is a misdemeanor violation of the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which carries a fine up to $15,000 and up to six months in jail. In Ohio, the violation carries a fine up to $1,000 and up to six months in jail and possible $2,500 restitution for the state's peregrine falcon restoration program.
Federal wildlife agent Tom Tidwell said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is aware of published reports of how the Ohio peregrine falcon may have died. Earlier reports suggested the bird may have struck the LaVeque Tower prior to falling to its death.
Regardless of how a peregrine falcon is harmed or killed, it remains a violation of the U.S. Migratory Bird Treat Act, said Tidwell, resident agent in charge of Michigan, Ohio and Indiana.
After interviews are conducted with a "handful of people," Tidwell said, the USFWS will present its finding to either a federal or state prosecutor.
"We'll do a good investigation," he said. Whether charges are filed in the case, "it depends on the facts of the case," Tidwell said.
Scout was hatched in Detroit in 2005 and first observed in Columbus in 2006, according to Ohio DOW biologist Donna Daniel, who monitors the Columbus peregrine falcon nests in Columbus and maintains a peregrine falcon blog linked to the DOW website.
Scout's breeding history included rearing four fledglings each in 2008 and 2009, Daniel wrote on the DOW blog.
Ohio began its peregrine falcon nesting program between 1989 and 1993, with 46 falcons released in Akron, Cincinnati, and Columbus, according to the DOW.
As of July 13, DOW staff and volunteers have witnessed 34 territorial peregrine falcon nesting sites statewide, with 27 nests producing 63 eggs, according to Jennifer Norris, DOW research wildlife biologist who supervises the falcon restoration program in Ohio.
Norris said 52 juvenile peregrine falcons - 22 males and 30 females - have been banded this year at more than 20 sites.
In addition to the death of Scout in Columbus, three other fledglings have died this year, including one other in Columbus, one in Akron, and an unbanded bird in Warren. Three adult falcons died in the spring, according to DOW statistics.
In an email update to Ohio falcon enthusiasts, Norris said the DOW has received confirmation on two sightings of Ohio peregrine falcons. One falcon, hatched in Canton in 2009, has established a territory on the Niagara River gorge with an unbanded male In addition, Norris wrote, an adult female banded in 2008 in Lima has recovered from a fracture while in rehabilitation and will be released in the near future.