Monday, December 29, 2014

Feds: Shore-area man shot 6 hawks from house

Gallery: Feds: Shore-area man shot 6 hawks from house

A Somers Point, Atlantic County, man has been arrested by federal officials today for allegedly shooting at protected hawks on six different occasions from his suburban home, killing five and wounding another that had to be euthanized.

Federal officials fear he might be responsible for shooting other raptors.  They say they caught him on video pointing a gun on multiple days from his back door.

Robert Losasso, 68, was charged in a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in N.J. with either fatally shooting, or attempting to kill, red-tailed hawks, sharp-shinned hawks, red-shoulder hawks and Cooper's hawks - all which migrate from Canada each year.

Losasso could not immediately be reached for comment.

Residents of Somers Point within a four block radius of Losasso have reported during the past two and a half years that they have seen more than 40 dead or injured birds of prey in and around their yards.  Some of their homes were peppered with bullets or pellets in the process. At times, they say they heard gunshots coming from Losasso's property.

According to the complaint, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service investigation documented Losasso having shot at the birds from Dec. 2012 through April of this year using a .22 caliber rifle and a .17 caliber pellet gun. Both were outfitted with scopes.

The hawks are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Red-shouldered hawks are on the endangered list and sharp-shinned, and Cooper's hawks are protected in New Jersey.

Losasso is expected to appear today in federal court in Newark.  He faces a maximum penalty of six months in prison. He also faces a fine of $15,000 for each of the six counts. That would total $90,000 if he's convicted on all counts.

The complaint says that neighbors reported seeing dead birds as far back as August 2010.  One raptor was found dead in Dec. 2012 on a property caddy-corner to Lasso's. A wounded bird was found Dec. 11, 2012 on another neighbor's property caddy-corner to Lasso's.  It had to be euthanized. 

Both of those birds were shot while sitting and with their wings folded. Necropsies performed on other birds recovered on subsequent occasions showed they were shot with either bullets or pellets.

During the investigation, agents setup cameras near Losasso's home. On Jan. 23., one video captured the rear sliding glass door of Losasso's home sliding open with the barrel of a long, black gun poking out. Losasso was spotted in firing position, according to the complaint.  A Cooper's hawk was found dead nearby the same day.

Agents recorded three other instances of the guns emerging from Losasso's back door, the complaint states.  On June 27, law enforcement officials executed a search warrant of the home and found a pellet gun and rifle. The guns had been propped against a wall next to the sliding glass door. Losasso admitted they were his, according to the complaint.

Records show Losasso has lived at the home since the 1980s.

Frank Kummer PHILLY.COM
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