After a stong storm passed through her town late last month, Cheryl Geyer of Pennsylvania discovered three helpless robin chicks besides a broken nest that had been blown down by the gale. Following her better instincts, Cheryl collected the birds and lovingly fed them a steady diet of worms dug from her backyard while she contacted local wildlife officials to care for them. But shockingly, instead of receiving rescue from authorities, the robin chicks were swiftly executed -- ironically, because they were 'protected'.
Like many animal lovers suddenly thrust into the role of wildlife caregiver, Cheryl did the best she could to preserve the fragile lives of the three baby robins she found orphaned in her yard until help arrived. And, after three days, things were looking up for the birds' survival.
"You could have never told me I'd be getting up at all hours, smashing up big night crawlers and feeding them to baby birds, but that's what I did," she told the Chambersburg Public Opinion. "From the night that I got them, by Wednesday they were in such good health. Their eyes were open and they were chirping."
Soon after, Cheryl called local Wildlife Conservation authorities to take charge of the baby birds. Officer Justin Klugh responded to her call, but was surprisingly unappreciative of the Good Samaritan's altruistic gesture; he informed her that she wasn't authorized to be in possession of the birds, protected under the Migratory Species Act, and removed them.
Geyer said Klugh returned to her home about three hours after he had left, this time with an empty bucket in his hand.
"I asked him, 'What happened?' and he said, 'She wasn't home, so I euthanized them,'" Geyer said. "I asked him if he injected them with something and he said, 'No, I shot them.'"
"I started crying and said 'Why would you have to shoot them?' Those little birds basically got shot because he didn't have the time," Geyer said. "They could all sit in the palm of my hand. Seriously. That takes a gun?"
When she pressed for why he had to kill the birds, Cheryl says the officer "kept saying, 'I'm the only officer that works this county, I'm awfully busy. He said it was his last day of work because he was going on vacation for three weeks."
While the story is clearly shocking, Pennsylvania Game Commission's spokesperson Richard Danley tells the Chambersburg Public Opinion that, even in light of the allegations, nothing seems amiss.
"As far as I can tell on it's face, it doesn't appear that the officer has done anything out of procedure or outside our standards of practice," says Danley.
Cheryl has since filed a formal complaint against the officer who shot the rescued birds, but the case any internal investigation into the matter will have to wait until Klugh returns from his vacation. In light of how her wildlife rescue experience played out, however, Cheryl can't help but feeling let down by those charged with protecting animals in need of help.
"I wish I had never called them," she says. "It feels like I sent those poor little birds off to be executed."