Osprey shot at school recovering; reward offered

By Ashley Harding, General assignment reporter, aharding@wjxt.com
Published On: Apr 16 2014 05:03:06 PM EDT
Updated On: Apr 16 2014 05:40:00 PM EDT

A skilled hunter becomes the hunted as it's shot out of the sky. Now, an Orange Park community is fighting for justice for a feathered survivor.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

A reward is being offered for information that will help investigators find whoever shot an osprey outside Orange Park High School, a federal crime.

Some student and staff said they heard gunshots Friday night, then saw the bird fall several feet to the ground.

The osprey is now being cared for at Bird Emergency Aid and Kare Sanctuary, or B.E.A.K.S.

"I know (the shots) came from behind our campus," said Jenifer DePalma, a zoology teacher at the school.

DePalma said she gave first aid to the bird right away. X-rays showed the osprey had broken bones in both its wrist and elbow. Thankfully, no bullets were found inside of the bird.

"It was sad because they've been here longer than 20 years," DePalma said. "We've never had an incident like this. Most people at the school know about them."

School officials said the family of ospreys, including the mother, father and several babies, had made their home atop a light overlooking a field. Staff and students consider them part of the Orange Park family.

School officials said a track meet was going on when the shooting happened. One of the coaches said he heard more than one gunshot, and that's when he saw the osprey fall to the ground. Officials said if the coach had not gotten to the bird when he did, it could have died right there.

"It's really devastating," said Cindy Mosling, of B.E.A.K.S. "It's one of the most hurtful things to have happened."

Mosling said despite what happened to the bird, it's a fighter.

"Her energy; she's feisty, she's eating," Mosling said. "I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that she's a mom. I think she wants to get back to her babies. She's not giving up."

While the osprey is nursed back to health, there is a fear that the person who did this will strike again. In the meantime, two other ospreys were released into the wild Wednesday, a sign of hope that maybe one day the injured osprey will join them, Mosling said.

"I would really be thrilled if that female were able to be released back into the wild so she can reunited with her mate and her babies," DePalma said.

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