Eagle biologist David Hancock inspects a tree which was once home to an eagle nest, last year in South Surrey. (File photo)

$5,000 reward offered to find whoever paid to chop down Surrey eagle nest tree

But only if they ‘rat’ on the person who paid them to remove the Croydon Drive tree

The Hancock Wildlife Foundation is offering a $5,000 reward to the person who cut down a prominent eagle’s nest tree off Croydon Drive – but only if that person can provide proof of who paid them to do the job.

Foundation founder David Hancock said that it’s obvious the tree cutter didn’t act alone, and he would like to know who funded the operation.

“At some time, maybe the kid who (cut down the tree), will say, ‘OK, five grand, I’m going to rat on the guy that paid me.’ That’s what we’re hoping,” Hancock said Tuesday.

July last year, the City of Surrey received a call that a tree, located on private property at 2112 160 St., had been partially cut and was at risk of falling.

A city arbourist visited the site that afternoon and determined that the tree was at a high risk of falling due to it being cut on both sides, and almost all the way through.

Hancock supervised the removal of the tree, and agreed that there was no alternative – the tree had to come down.

RELATED: Prominent eagle nesting tree cut down in Surrey

The tree was home to an eagle nest, which Hancock had observed for the previous eight years. The nest could be easily spotted from Highway 99, and was active every year.

Last year, the city told Peace Arch News that an investigation had been opened by both the city and province, and that the vandalism to the tree was an infraction of the city’s tree-protection bylaw and the provincial Wildlife Act.

Conservation Service officer Alicia Stark told PAN this week that the investigation is still open.

The minimum fine that could be imposed under the Wildlife Act is $575. However, the investigation is complicated due to a lack of witnesses.

Under the city’s tree-protection bylaw, fines of up to $2,000 can be issued.

RELATED: Residents rally after eagle nest illegally vandalized

“We haven’t had anyone come forward with information but are still wanting people to call our (Report All Poachers and Polluters) line if they have information,” Stark wrote to PAN. “We haven’t been able to lay any charges.”

Even though it’s been a little more than a year since the tree was damaged, Hancock said he’s still regularly asked by residents for an update on the investigation.

“It always comes up,” Hancock said. “Every time I give a talk in the region, it’s the first question – what happened? It really is.”

Although the tree came down July last year, Hancock suspects that the cut was probably made in May.

“It was slowly dying. He only cut about a little over half of it. The birds, who were on eggs or had very tiny young, they abandoned the nest and they went and built another nest.”

Despite losing their home, the pair of eagles – Hancock caught the male and equipped it with a GPS-tracking device – appear to be doing just fine.

“When they came back after their migration, they went straight to (the new nest) and raised three young there, this year… I have not caught the female yet. It’s my great wish to catch the female so we know where the pair goes. I tried and tried and I couldn’t catch her, she’s very suspicious.”

Hancock has caught and installed GPS devices on 17 birds. All of which, he said, are northern breeders.

The eagles returned from their northern adventures on Sept. 22.

Hancock said he’s scheduled to have a meeting Wednesday to try and analyze data received from the GPS devices, and come up with a theory of why all the eagles seemed to have returned on the exact same day.

“The big thing is probably the fact that it’s so competitive in the Lower Mainland, that if you don’t get back and look after your nest, somebody else is going to claim it.”

Hancock said, “in the bird world,” the first eagle to claim a nest as its territory is, statistically, most likely to win the battle.

Hancock said that cutting down eagles nests, despite the illegality, has been happening for years in the province.

“Over my lifetime, even in the 30 years that I’ve lived here, I’ve just watched dozens and dozens and dozens of eagles nests just get chopped down,” Hancock said, adding that only recently has there been more enforcement on the illegal activity.

“Only since the NDP took power that we’ve saved a single eagle nest,” he said. “The concern, or the difference is, has to do with the enforcement of the Wildlife Act. That happened only when the NDP got in, all of the other governments have neglected it.”

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