Mom Fined $535 After Her Daughter Saved a Baby Bird

baby woodpecker photo
Photo: marabuchi / cc

If a nation can be judged for how they treat their animals -- does the same apply for how it rewards those who treat them well? When 11-year-old Skylar Capo of Fredericksberg, Virgina, saw an abandoned baby woodpecker in her father's yard and a cat threatening to eat it, she did what any kindhearted child who wants to be a veteranian would do: she rescued it. With her mother picking her up soon, Skylar decided it would be best to release the bird at her house. But before they made it home, the Good Samaratan and her mom were stopped by a wildlife officer and slapped with a $535 fine for 'transporting' the migratory bird.
After Skylar rescued the bird from certain death, the girl and her mother Alison headed home to set it free, but not before making one quick stop at a local home improvement store. Since it was a hot day, the child decided to take the bird inside the store with her instead of leaving it in the car. While inside, the Capos were confronted by an agent from the Virginia Department of Fish and Wildlife, who, noticing the bird in their care, told them that possessing it was illegal under the Federal Migratory Bird Act.

They told the officer about what happened to the bird, and explained that they were on their way back home to set it free. This sweet, yet otherwise unremarkable tale of animal rescue might have ended there -- but, according to a report from The Examiner, it soon took a turn for the unbelievable:

[Alison and Skylar] assumed the matter was resolved until two weeks later, when the same agent appeared at their door, this accompanied by a State Trooper. Alison Capo, Skylar's mom, was slapped with a $535 fine and warned that she may face jail time for violating the Federal Migratory Bird Act, which makes it illegal for anyone to take, possess, import, export, transport, sell, purchase, barter, or offer for sale, purchase, or barter, any migratory bird, or the parts, nests, or eggs of such a bird except under the terms of a valid permit issued pursuant to Federal regulations.

Under the law, Alison could face up to one year in jail for her child's good deed.

Instead of punishing Skylar and Alison for what might have been a violation of the letter of the law, the responsibly humane 11-year-old and her mother should be celebrated for their contribution to the spirit of the law. Unfortunately perhaps, the gentle instinct of a child to rescue a defenseless creature cannot be thrust upon others through a legislative order -- but never should one be used to quell it.

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