MOUNT PLEASANT, SC (WCSC) - Federal investigators are looking into the removal of an Osprey nest in Mount Pleasant that some neighbors say was illegal.
Homeowners in the RiverTowne on the Wando neighborhood say a nest was destroyed by an SCE&G crew.
"When we just walked by we saw two osprey trying to reconstruct the nest and they were pretty upset about us being near the nest," resident Susan Hayward said. "They were definitely squawking."
Another homeowner who did not want to be identified described the scene after she said the nest was destroyed on Feb. 27.
"The bird sat up there on the pole and just screamed at me as I got closer and closer to the site," she said. "I could tell that she's very, very upset."
According to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, it's illegal to destroy or remove an active nest. The presence of eggs or chicks would provide evidence to its activity.
"I've lived here seven years and in those seven years SCE&G crews would come through, do their routine maintenance and none of them have ever touched that osprey nest," the neighbor said. "It is undeniable that there were two enormous birds circling overheard while they tore down that nest. It is clear as day."
The homeowner claims she approached the crew to talk about what happened and was told they didn't see any eggs.
However, after calling the Department of Natural Resources and officials with Birds of Prey, she said she went out to search the site with a Birds of Prey specialist for evidence.
"That's when we found the freshly cracked egg," she said. "It was wet."
Birds of Prey Executive Director Jim Elliott said Tuesday afternoon nests are allowed to be removed and/or relocated if the location is deemed a hazard to humans or the birds themselves.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Natural Resources said officers assisted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service collecting evidence in the case, but didn't say if an egg was collected.
A federal spokesperson said they had no comment about this investigation at this time.
"I'm glad that people are taking this seriously, however I'm really sad that this had to be investigated," the neighbor said.
SCE&G spokesman Paul Fischer released the following statement Tuesday afternoon:
"SCE&G is committed to following all applicable environmental guidelines when dealing with wildlife, including Osprey, and other natural resources across the communities we serve. We are aware of the concerns expressed by some members of the community regarding the maintenance and inspection work our crews were performing at this specific location and will continue to cooperate as requested."
"[I want them to] say why they made the decision they made that day," the homeowner said. "Maybe we've got it all wrong. It's possible we have it all wrong and what they did was a very well thought out decision, because right now we don't think so."
Under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act a fine for misdemeanor convictions could be up to $15,000.
According to DNR's website, ospreys pick their habitat that has sturdy perching structures and easy access to fish. They have been known to nest on both man-made and natural objects such as cranes, buildings, bridges, nest platforms, telephone poles, or partially rotten trees with no tops. Osprey build huge nests which eventually reach "eagle size".