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With Harriet missing, eagle cam fans trying to help be warned: You could be breaking the law

M15 feeds one of the eaglets in the Bayshore Road nest on Sunday, Feb. 5, 2023. The drama involving Harriet the eagle at the Bayshore Road nest in North Fort Myers has caused some to become upset and make suggestions about placing food at the nesting tree and other recommendations, some of which go against federal laws governing protected species.
Michael Braun
/
WGCU
M15 feeds one of the eaglets in the Bayshore Road nest on Sunday, Feb. 5, 2023. The drama involving Harriet the eagle at the Bayshore Road nest in North Fort Myers has caused some to become upset and make suggestions about placing food at the nesting tree and other recommendations, some of which go against federal laws governing protected species.

The drama involving Harriet the eagle brings a warning for those trying to lure the bird back to her nest or care for her eaglets.

A beloved bald eagle has been missing from her much-viewed Lee County nest for five days on Monday, raising concern from thousands of viewers of the online cam that has kept watch on Harriet, her mate and their two eaglets.

In some cases, comments on the Southwest Florida Eagle Cam worried cam officials enough to issue a warning that anyone leaving food to lure her back may cause more harm, not to mention illegal.

On Sunday afternoon, a person could be seen on camera inside the property fence placing something at the base of the tree. That land in North Fort Myers is owned by Dick Pritchett Real Estate and off-limits to the public.

It was not known what the person left, but cam officials were not pleased and urged anyone thinking of leaving food or going inside the fence to avoid that at all costs.

Harriet and M15's eaglets, E21 and E22, are barely a month old. On Monday, Feb. 6, 2023, they sat in their nest as M15 looks for food and protects the home. Harriett has been missing for several days.
Southwest Florida Eagle Cam / Dick Pritchett Real Estate
Harriet and M15's eaglets, E21 and E22, are barely a month old. On Monday, Feb. 6, 2023, they sat in their nest as M15 looks for food and protects the home. Harriett has been missing for several days.

One of the volunteers who helps the cam reposted a message from a website administrator to help sort out confusion over eagles and the law: The administrator, Essec09, reminded that decisions concerning the eagles are made by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, not the Pritchetts.

"There are a number of comments that have been posted on Facebook as to what should be done. These individuals apparently do not understand how some actions can be detrimental to wildlife,” Essec09 wrote.

"Baiting or artificial feeding encourages bold behavior - birds often fight over access to food. By presenting food near the nest/road it encourages more wildlife to the area (not only birds, but small mammals). This is a recipe for disaster - especially in (the camera) location. Not only does it bring more predators, there is the risk of accidents involving motor vehicles and power lines.”

Some violations covering federally protected species such as bald eagles can result in a fine of $100,000 ($200,000 for organizations), imprisonment for one year, or both.

Visitors to the eagle nest on Bayshore Road in North Fort Myers watch M15 feed his two eaglets Sunday afternoon, Feb. 5, 2023. Harriett remains missing.
Michael Braun
/
WGCU
Visitors to the eagle nest on Bayshore Road in North Fort Myers watch M15 feed his two eaglets Sunday afternoon, Feb. 5, 2023. Harriett remains missing.

When Harriett left camera view … she had been vocalizing at intruders in the area, Essec09’s message said. The Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife and FWC were apprised.

Essec09 added that the Pritchetts conducted a search for Harriet on their property.

“The search … had to be conducted by the property owners,” the administrator wrote. “This is a working boarding facility and there are liability issues that must be adhered to.”

Since Harriet went missing, her breeding partner, known as M15, continued to collect food, feed the eaglets, E21 and E22, and patrol the area around their tree on Bayshore Road. The eaglets were hatched in early January.

Michael Braun