LEESBURG, Fla. - A Lake County man could face criminal charges after witnesses saw him run over a baby crane with a golf cart Thursday night, killing the bird, authorities said.
Neighbors at the Spanish Village community in Leesburg said the man also tried to run over two other Sandhill cranes.
Witnesses told Channel 9 the man told them he was tired of finding crane droppings on the golf course, so he chased them until he ran the baby crane down and killed it.
Raw (warning explicit language): Woman describes man killing baby crane with golf cart
"I just felt terrible," said witness Jamie Phillips.
Phillips and others said they were horrified, and one of them called 911.
"Two people on a golf cart just ran over a sand crane and killed it and thought it was funny," said the caller.
"The bird couldn't run any faster. He couldn't go anymore, so he just ran it over. He didn't stop. He didn't brake. He didn't do anything," Phillips said.
Phillips said after it all happened, she confronted the man and was shocked when he told her why he did it.
"(I asked) ‘What was the reason for you to run him over?’ And he said, ‘They're crapping on my golf course,’" Phillips said.
After the confrontation, the man drove away into another part of the community.
Channel 9’s Myrt Price said he found the bird’s feathers spread on the golf course.
Florida Fish and Wildlife officers were investigating and spoke with neighbors.
Officials said the Florida Sandhill crane is protected by the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act and as a State-designated threatened species by Florida’s Endangered and Threatened Species Rule, and it is illegal to harm them.
Phillips said she wants the person responsible for the incident to be punished.
"Of course, we want someone to be held accountable for this because there was no reason for that bird to be killed. No reason at all," Phillips said. “If you’re going to get mad because a bird is outside in its natural habitat, pooping in the grass, you have a problem. You have an issue."
FWC officials have not ID'd the man because they have not finished their report.
Officials said once the investigation is finished, they will send the case to the State Attorney’s Office to determine what charges will be filed.
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