Marco Island requests continuance in case of realtor putting mothballs in owl burrow

On Oct. 6, a real estate agent was recorded putting mothballs into a owl burrow on a Marco Island empty lot at 1430 Wayne Court , according to an Audubon of the Western Everglades news release.

During Tuesday's hearing in front of the code enforcement magistrate, the city of Marco Island requested a continuance in the case of the realtor who allegedly put mothballs in an owl burrow.

The request was made after respondents Roger M. and Jacquelyn Fleming requested the continuance from the city, according to Captain Dave Baer of the Marco Island Police Department.

"It's not uncommon for people to ask for continuance when they are facing criminal charges," Baer said.

Brad Cornell, policy associate of the Audubon of the Western Everglades, said the organization does not have an opinion about the continuance.

"We don't have an opinion about the continuance but we want to see vigorous enforcement of Marco ordinances," Cornell said.

Myrnabelle Roche, special code enforcement magistrate for the city, granted the continuance request.

The case will be scheduled for the next hearing in November, according to Baer. 

On Oct. 8, the Eagle reported on a video that shows a man putting mothballs into an owl burrow on an empty lot at 1430 Wayne Ave. 

In case you missed it:Video shows realtor putting mothballs in Marco Island owl burrow, Audubon says

A neighbor recorded the real estate agent now identified by the city as Roger M. Fleming putting mothballs into an owl burrow located on the empty lot at 1430 Wayne Ave. The owls survived and one of them was banded for research.

Cornell said at the time 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 Fleming to get a permit from Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

The 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 at the time to the Eagle. "We value the Florida wildlife and ecosystem," Young said.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is currently investigating the incident.

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).