Video shows realtor putting mothballs in Marco Island owl burrow, Audubon says

A video shows a real estate agent putting mothballs into an owl burrow on Marco Island in an attempt to poison them, according to Audubon of the Western Everglades.

On Sunday, a neighbor recorded a real estate agent putting mothballs into an owl burrow located on an empty lot at 1430 Wayne Ave., according to an Audubon news release.

"The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission’s law enforcement staff were called and are investigating this incident," the news release reads. "The violator has been identified and contacted by state law enforcement."

On Oct. 6, a volunteer video recorded a real estate agent putting mothballs into a owl burrow on Marco Island at 1430 Wayne Court, according to an Audubon news release.

The owls apparently survived and one of them was banded for research by Audubon Western Everglades, according to the news release.

Brad Cornell of Audubon said in a phone call mothballs, a chemical pesticide, may be harmful for the owls because they were put inside the burrow.

"At the very minimum it could make the burrow unusable," Cornell said. "That's harming and harassing the owls."

"As a human you wouldn't want to breathe mothballs for very long."

Cornell said it would have been much easier for the realtor to get a permit from Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

A real estate company, Premiere Plus Realty, wrote in a tweet it was saddened by what happened. This was first reported by NBC 2.

"We are aware of a serious violation that may involve one of our agents outside of our knowledge," the company wrote. "We are still gathering all the details about this situation and will swiftly take the appropriate disciplinary action."

The company wrote they made a donation to the Owl Watch Program of the Audubon Society of the Western Everglades to show their support for burrowing owls.

Premiere Plus Realty wrote in a separate news release the independent contractor was let go from the company.

"Out of an abundance of caution, we have made the decision to remove the individual from the company," the news release reads.

"He is no longer working with the company," Jillian Young, marketing and communications director of the company, said in a phone call to the Eagle. "We value the Florida wildlife and ecosystem," Young said.

An FWC media representative confirmed to the Eagle via text message FWC is currently investigating the incident.

"We don't want to speculate on any type of charges, and that information will have to wait until the investigation has been completed," wrote Carol Lyn Parrish, public information coordinator of FWC south region.

Biologist Nancy Richie of Island Environmental scoops an owl burrow using a "burrow scope" on a Marco Island empty lot on Oct. 8. Next to Richie is Audubon Western Everglades owl watch leader Jean Hall and, in uniform, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission law enforcement officers.

"There is no additional information available for release at this time."

This incident follows others earlier this year in which contractors had dumped dirt and other materials on top of owl and tortoise burrows.

The Eagle reported in May volunteers carefully shoveled big piles of sand that were dumped on top of gopher tortoise burrows at an empty lot on Dogwood Drive on Marco Island.

The Florida burrowing owl is listed as state Threatened on Florida’s Endangered and Threatened Species List, according to FWC.

Harassing, harming, pursuing, hunting, shooting, wounding, killing, trapping, capturing or collecting burrowing owls, or an attempt to engage in any such conduct, is prohibited by city and state law.

Florida burrowing owls, active nests and eggs are also protected under the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, according to FWC's website.

If you see a wildlife violation, Audubon urges you to call FWC’s Wildlife Alert Line: 888-404-3922 (FWCC).

More:Marco Island ups penalties for violations of endangered species ordinance

And:Marco Islanders band together to rescue gopher tortoises