GOODLAND — A spokeswoman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said it is going to "take time" for her agency to pursue state and federal charges against the six men and one woman arrested in mid-February after authorities say they wantonly shot and killed 21 protected wading birds near Goodland.
"It’s not going to happen next week," commission spokeswoman Gabriella Ferraro said.
Ferraro said her agency is working closely with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the State Attorney’s Office. The commission is also working with the U.S. Navy, after it was confirmed that four of the arrested men are recent Naval Academy graduates, and are in aviation training school in Pensacola.
The seven people were identified as Joseph William Gursky, 22, of New York; Mark Lewis McClure, 23, of Osprey, near Sarasota; Cullen Mark Shaughnessy, 22, of Marco Island; Alexander Bruce Wilhelm, 24, of Maryland; Stephanie Marie Meads, 23, of East Naples; Keith G. Lisa, 31, of New Jersey; and Zachary James Mato, 22, also of Marco Island.
They were initially arrested on trespassing charges.
The commission is still pursuing additional state charges of killing a species of special concern, a third-degree felony, and misdemeanor charges of killing a bird protected by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
"This is going to be a lengthy process," Ferraro said. "It may require DNA testing from the subjects involved."