Filmed by a neighbor, the video footage shows the real estate agent stuffing mothballs into an owl burrow at 1430 Wayne Ave on southwestern Florida’s Marco Island.
As first reported by the Naples Daily News, the neighbor saw the man in the footage and reported it to local wildlife preservation authorities. The Florida burrowing owl is on a list of the state’s threatened and endangered species and killing or harassing them comes with the risk of fines and prosecution.
The Audubon of the Western Everglades released a statement saying the owls had survived but were at serious risk of harm because mothballs are a chemical pesticide. Brad Cornell of Audubon told the Naples Daily News that agents who encounter problems with wildlife should just get a permit from the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) or any other local wildlife commission.
“The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission’s law enforcement staff were called and are investigating this incident,” the agency announced in a news release on Tuesday. “The violator has been identified and contacted by state law enforcement.”
The agent has not been identified by name by the authorities but comes from Premiere Plus Realty, a mid-size brokerage with branches in southwestern Florida. After the incident started to make the news, the brokerage released a statement confirming it had cut ties with the man in the video, an independent contractor. The company also said it has made a donation to the Owl Watch Program of the Audubon Society of the Western Everglades.
“When an issue like this comes to our attention, we take it very seriously,” Premiere Plus Realty announced on Twitter. “Illegal activity, especially activity that concerns our fragile Florida ecosystem and wildlife, is forbidden.”
— Premiere Plus Realty (@premiereplus_re) October 8, 2019
A spokesperson from Premiere Plus Realty told Inman that even though they cannot confirm who was in the video, they are aware of who had the listing and the agent sign on the property in question and are choosing not to continue to work with him.
“We know the name of the man who was on the real estate sign that had our logo which was placed on the property in question; and we know the agent’s name who had that listing,” the spokesperson said. “We reached out to that listing agent and did not receive a comment. We decided to remove the listing agent of that property from our company.”