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Ospreys under fire in St. Petersburg's Shore Acres neighborhood

ST. PETERSBURG — She thought the osprey would never fly again.

Taylor Bass, vice president of Tampa Bay Bird Rescue, was called to the Shore Acres neighborhood on June 26 to pick up an osprey that had been found shot by a pellet gun.

The bird was splayed out on a walkway near the sea wall. It was taken to local wildlife rehabilitator Penny Boehme and was at first simply recovering from its injuries.

But then, there was a breakthrough. The bird began to fly short distances to low heights.

Now, Bass thinks the osprey might be able to spread its wings.

"We first thought that it wasn't going to make it," Bass said. "That we're seeing the improvements we're seeing, it's exciting."

Not all the birds in Shore Acres have been so lucky. Since 2012, four ospreys and one great blue heron have been found shot in "the same immediate area" of Shore Acres neighborhood, said Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesman Gary Morse.

Of the four ospreys shot in Shore Acres, only this one has survived.

Ospreys are protected under both state and federal laws. The illegal killing of an osprey can vary in degree from a misdemeanor to a felony.

The case is under investigation by the FWC, and officials are "working to try to bring this to a close," Morse said.

Two recent shootings in the same location have led Barbara Walker, director of Tampa Bay Bird Rescue, to start a reward fund. She hopes the effort will encourage anyone with information to come forward.

Aside from the osprey found in late June, Shore Acres resident Sheryll Trussell's husband also noticed a great blue heron floating dead in the water two days later.

The heron was pronounced dead at the scene, shot with what appeared to be a pellet.

Walker said ospreys can nest and perch in unwanted places, such as trees and boats. Because Shore Acres is close to Weedon Island Preserve, the neighborhood is a popular spot for wildlife.

According to Walker, there are about 400 nesting ospreys in Pinellas County.

But David Delrahim, president of the Shore Acres neighborhood association, was unaware of any of the osprey shootings and said he has received no complaints about the birds.

"They're great for our area, and they eat the bugs," Delrahim said. "A lot of people like that."

Contact Elizabeth Djinis at edjinis@tampabay.com or (727)-893-8913. Follow @djinisinabottle.

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