Nest­ing tree tear-down un­der scru­tiny in O.C.

Los Angeles Times - - THE STATE - By Hannah Fry hannah.fry@la­ Twit­ter: @Han­nahFryTCN

Au­thor­i­ties are in­ves­ti­gat­ing a com­pany that New­port Beach res­i­dents say tore down a tree full of pro­tected birds.

Neigh­bors in Bal­boa Penin­sula Point said they stood on the side­walk in dis­be­lief last week as work­ers knocked down a large tree that was home to two types of herons.

Au­thor­i­ties de­clined to re­lease the name of the com­pany in­volved, cit­ing an “ac­tive crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion.”

Res­i­dents said the dis­tressed birds cir­cled above the tree, which sat on the site of a de­mol­ished house in the 1500 block of East Bal­boa Boule­vard, as their nests and chicks fell to the ground. The site had been un­der­go­ing con­struc­tion for weeks, neigh­bors said. All work has been halted.

Of­fi­cials said the tree was on pri­vate prop­erty and could be torn down with­out a per­mit. But fed­eral law pro­hibits any­one from dis­turb­ing or re­mov­ing ac­tive birds’ nests from trees.

New­port Beach an­i­mal con­trol and the Cal­i­for­nia Depart­ment of Fish and Wildlife are in­ves­ti­gat­ing the crew for a pos­si­ble mis­de­meanor vi­o­la­tion of the Mi­gra­tory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, an­i­mal con­trol Of­fi­cer Nick Ott said.

An­i­mal con­trol of­fi­cials took 10 chicks to the Wet­lands & Wildlife Care Cen­ter in Hunt­ing­ton Beach; two died.

The tree was known to pro­vide an an­nual nest­ing spot for snowy egrets and black-crowned night herons, neigh­bors said.

“They kept tear­ing down the tree, even though all th­ese birds were freak­ing out all over the place,” neigh­bor Ni­cole Snell Deer­mount said.

“Birds were f ly­ing ev­ery­where.”

Deer­mount said her hus­band, Adam, was walk­ing the fam­ily dog when he no­ticed a chick strug­gling in the branches piled on the ground. He called an­i­mal con­trol, which took the bird to the res­cue cen­ter.

Af­ter the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is com­plete, the agen­cies will sub­mit their find­ings to the Or­ange County dis­trict at­tor­ney’s of­fice, Ott said. Pros­e­cu­tors will de­cide whether to file charges.

If con­victed, those in­volved could face six months to a year in jail and be or- dered to pay fines. The case also could be pros­e­cuted at the fed­eral level, of­fi­cials said.

Shel­ley Ervin Daily Pi­lot

A BIRD sits atop the re­mains of a tree that of­fi­cials think was torn down in vi­o­la­tion of pro­tec­tion laws.

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