The state Department of Environmental Conservation said Monday it is investigating a report from a Queens preservation group that three youngsters set an osprey nest on fire, possibly destroying the birds’ eggs or baby birds.
“Ospreys are protected by both state and federal law. DEC takes these types of occurrences very seriously and will fully investigate this matter and any incident that damages New York’s valuable wildlife and natural resources,” Aphrodite Montalvo, a spokeswoman for the state agency’s Region 1 office in Stony Brook, said in an email Monday.
The letter that prompted the investigation came from the Udalls Cove Preservation Committee and claimed that on April 24, three youths — two boys and a girl — set fire to the nest that was on the top of a concrete structure at the head of the cove in Queens, between Douglaston and Little Neck Bay. The group also sent photographs of the burned nest.
Dane Hamilton, a local activist, said that because of the season “there is a high certainty that there were either baby ospreys or eggs in the nest.”
The group in its letter said witnesses say three young people ran from the burning nest; it is offering a $500 reward for information leading to the arrest of those responsible.
According to a fact sheet by the state agency, New York has two main breeding populations for osprey — one on Long Island and another in the Adirondack Mountains.
The predatory bird, which dives for and eats fish, was listed as endangered in the state in 1976; that status was downgraded to “special concern” in 1999, after an increase in the number of breeding pairs statewide, the agency said.