Monday, February 06, 2006

Operation Bunting

When I hear about illegal sales of birds, my mind thinks "wild-caught parrots." Imagine my surprise when I read about a Miami dealer recently convicted of illegally selling Indigo Buntings (below), Painted Buntings, Blue Grosbeaks and Northern Cardinals.

At his sentencing in April, the defendant will face the possibility of a two-year prison sentence for each of the four counts and a fine of up to $250,000 per count. I wonder if he now considers the chance of eight years in prison and a $1 million fine worth the sale of those colorful birds.

Operation Bunting, the name given to the undercover investigation of the defendant and his five cohorts, began when U.S. Geological Survey field biologists noticed migratory birds being sold at informal flea markets and in pet stores in the Miami area. A National Park Service ranger also observed illegal trapping on the edge of Everglades National Park.

Undercover officers attended the flea markets on Hialeah Drive and in Martin Luther King Park. During the operation, officers purchased more than 250 protected migratory birds and were offered more than 3,500 birds. The investigation also produced charges and convictions against three pet store operators.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act protects species from capture, barter, sale and transport. Investigating and enforcing the act, in this incident, included agents from U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission and Environmental Protection Agency. Please say "thanks" if you get a chance!

Indigo Bunting courtesy of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service/Dave Menke

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