Florida officials say man was target practicing, not shooting at bald eagle

An incident videotaped in Santa Rosa County last week showed a bald eagle flying by with the sound of a gunshot in the background.

But it was nothing more than a homeowner target-practicing with a .22 caliber pistol - not someone trying to harm the bird - according to a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) investigation.

FWC Lt. Doug Berryman said Gulf Breeze resident Mike Esmond, 62, videotaped an immature bald eagle flying near an Avalon Blvd. subdivision on Nov. 30, recording as the eagle glided out of view.

A single gunshot could be heard on the videotape. Fearing the bird had been shot, Esmond turned over copies of the videotape - which contains less than 10 seconds of footage - to FWC investigators and several media outlets in the Pensacola area.

“We examined the footage frame by frame, and there was no indication when you heard the gunshot that the eagle was hit,” Berryman said.

“We went to the area and did an exhaustive ground search on an upland area and a swampy area next to it; and we used a K-9 trained to detect wildlife, and the dog didn’t come up with anything either.

“Finally, we canvassed homes in the neighborhood, and one homeowner told us he saw the eagle while his wife did some target-shooting with a .22 pistol.”

The homeowner was shooting at a target just above ground level.

FWC investigators are looking at the possibility of surveying nests in that area of Santa Rosa County but said for now that this case is closed.


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