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OSPREY SURVIVES GUNSHOTS

It's the latest in about eight incidents in the area. Officials are investigating.

When Gary Davis saw drivers slowing near his Shore Acres home, he assumed they were looking at a house that has been for sale.

It turned out an injured osprey had caught their attention.

The bird had been shot, one of about eight similar incidents in the Tampa Bay area in recent months, said Barbara Walker of the Clearwater Audubon Society and a rescue volunteer.

Another osprey was shot in Palm Harbor in April, she said.

"Both of these birds were shot in residential neighborhoods, in very developed areas,'' she said. "It's shocking to me.

"I can't help but wonder what else they are shooting at."

Walker got a call last week from a passer-by about the injured osprey in Shore Acres. Davis and his wife, Dorothy Sabean-Davis, left their home to babysit the bird lying on the sidewalk.

"Initially she was very quiet. She seemed to be shocked," said Sabean-Davis, who has raised ornamental chickens and peacocks.

"We watched it for a while, because we didn't want her to move too much, because her wing was very obviously broken,'' she said. "We decided to get a straw laundry basket and put it over her so she could have privacy. I didn't want her to have too much stimulus from the outside."

The couple later slid a piece of cardboard under the covered bird and carried it into their garage. Their ministrations lasted for about two hours until Clearwater Audubon rescue volunteer Russ Ochs could get to their northeast St. Petersburg neighborhood. He transported the bird of prey to Busch Gardens, where it underwent surgery.

Kelly Heckinger, a spokeswoman for the theme park, said the park covered the cost.

Last week, the theme park also treated a broad-winged hawk that had been shot in Odessa, Heckinger said.

Friday morning, the osprey was taken to Save Our Seabirds sanctuary in Sarasota. With one of its wings partly amputated, the bird will not be able to fly and will have to live out its life at the sanctuary, Walker said.

The osprey had been shot twice, she said, once under each wing. "The vet thinks that she was shot at pretty close range."

The incident was reported to the state's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

"We are investigating the situation and we're determining what reward might be offered," spokesman Gary Morse said.

Walker and other private individuals have put together $1,650 for a reward, "hoping that somebody could come forward and give us information that would lead to the arrest and conviction of this individual, so we can stop this from occurring again," she said.

The Shore Acres couple, who did not learn until later that the osprey had been shot, are upset.

"I was disgusted," Davis said, who offered his own theory about what might have been behind the incident.

"We have ospreys nesting here and the bird makes a lot of noise. I hate to think this, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was annoying someone."

His wife agrees. "For the last week or two, she had been particularly vocal, of course, very early in the morning," she said.

Sadly, all is quiet now.

Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at wmoore@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2283.

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FAST FACTS

Report an injured bird of prey

Clearwater Audubon Society, (727) 442-9140

Wildlife Alert Hotline, toll-free 1-888-404-3922

Up next:ON THE TOWN

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