ST. PETERSBURG — Through the rain, Patty Bodimer saw a flash of brown and white: An osprey, clearly injured, thrashed in the canal behind her home.
"The docks were just too high — it couldn't escape," said Bodimer, 52, of the Venetian Isles neighborhood. "I was terrified it would drown."
Her daughter, 13-year-old Calista, quickly called neighbor Jessica Silk, a skilled kayaker.
Jessica, 15, pulled on leather gloves, paddled into the water and snatched the federally protected bird of prey.
"You could tell it was pretty desperate," she said. "It didn't resist me at all."
A Clearwater Audubon Society rescuer, summoned by Bodimer on Friday evening, drove the osprey to Busch Gardens for emergency surgery. A veterinarian stripped a BB pellet from its right wing.
The shooting is sad but not rare, said Barbara Walker, a Clearwater Audubon Society board member. In the past two months, nine ospreys have been shot around Tampa Bay.
"We rescue more birds from shooting incidents than anything else," Walker said Sunday. "It's alarming — a growing problem."
In November, a Shore Acres couple found a near-dead female osprey, both wings shot, on a sidewalk. The bird was also transported to Busch Gardens.
Recent cases from Belleair, Palm Harbor and Tampa are grimly similar: Ospreys are discovered shot in residential areas, dead or barely alive.
Ospreys, which frequently make their large nests atop telephone or light poles, are protected by the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act and by state law.
Disturbing the birds can lead to hefty fines and jail time. Removing an active osprey nest without written permission is prohibited.
But shooters are rarely caught, said Lee Fox, founder of the Save Our Sea Birds Sanctuary in Sarasota, where Busch Gardens vets often send injured birds to recover.
"If Fish and Wildlife officers went after all of those calls, they'd be doing nothing else," Fox said. "It happens all the time."
Ospreys, cranes, loons — a wide variety of protected birds —are commonly found limp and unclaimed, shot for the sake of shooting.
"Maybe the shooters are crazy or think it's fun," Lee said. "I think you'd have to be crazy to think it's fun."
The osprey rescued Friday evening on Venetian Isles was recovering Sunday at Busch Gardens, Walker said. A Busch Gardens spokeswoman could not be reached.
The Audubon Society has posted a $700 reward for information leading to the shooter's arrest.
The bird, a male, is eventually expected to join the female bird found in Shore Acres at the Save Our Sea Birds Sanctuary.
Audubon members suspect the birds — found less than a mile apart — may have been mates, Walker said.
Danielle Paquette can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4224.