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Press Release

Rhode Island Man Charged with Violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Rhode Island
Allegedly shot at Red-Tailed and Cooper hawks to protect squirrels

PROVIDENCE, RI – A Rhode Island man has been charged by way of a federal criminal information with violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, having allegedly shot at, injured, and /or killed Red-Tailed and Cooper hawks in and around his property in an effort to protect squirrels, announced United States Attorney Zachary A. Cunha.

It is alleged in charging documents that, between October 1, 2018, and April 18, 2021, Robert J. Ferreira, 64, of Portsmouth, repeatedly used a pump-action pellet air gun to shoot at hawks in his back yard. Ferreira is alleged to have told a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent that he estimates that he shot at approximately 50-80 hawks, which he believed were a threat to squirrels that visited squirrel feeders on his property.

According to court documents, on various dates neighbors reported hearing popping sounds from the area of Ferreira’s property that were consistent with the firing of a weapon, and found approximately eight injured and deceased hawks on or near Ferreira’s property.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) protects certain migratory birds, including the Red-Tailed hawk and Cooper hawk, and forbids hunting, capturing, or killing these birds unless authorized by permit.

Ferreira is charged by way of a federal criminal information with four counts of hunting, taking, killing, or attempting to kill migratory birds, a violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. He is scheduled to appear for his arraignment on the information before a magistrate judge on October 12, 2023.

Hunting, taking, or killing, or attempting to kill migratory birds is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 6 months of imprisonment and fine of up to $15,000. A federal criminal information is merely an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Denise M. Barton.

The matter was investigated by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement.



Jim Martin

(401) 709-5357

Updated October 2, 2023

Press Release Number: 23-103