OAKLAND -- Federal wildlife officials will not pursue criminal charges against a tree trimmer who injured five birds last month while cutting back trees at a downtown Oakland post office.
In a statement released this week, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Gavin Shire said the agency, in consultation with the U.S. attorney's office, concluded no further action was warranted.
The wildlife service had considered criminal charges against Bay Point resident Ernesto Pulido after several black-crowned night herons were injured during the tree trimming operation on May 3.
"We are glad to hear that the herons affected by this action are expected to fully recover," Shire said.
The agency was investigating whether Pulido had violated the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act, a federal law designed to protect migratory birds, their nests and habitats. The misdemeanor violation could have resulted in six months in jail and fines of up to $15,000.
Investigators said Pulido took responsibility, paid for care of the injured birds and expressed remorse.
"There was no intent to harm birds," Jill Birchell, special agent in charge of the California-Nevada region, told this newspaper last month. "It was a lack of due diligence on the part of the tree-trimming company. It was a dumb mistake but a mistake nonetheless."
The U.S. Postal Service hired Pulido to trim ficus trees near the 13th Street post office, where numerous egrets and the herons have nested for years, to stop the birds from defecating on mail trucks parked below dozens of nests. As workers pruned the trees, five young black-crowned night herons were hurt after falling some 25 feet.
The birds suffered scrapes and bruises from the fall and were taken to International Bird Rescue in Fairfield. One bird also had a fractured beak which required surgery.
After being displaced from areas around Lake Merritt and Jack London Square, the shorebirds had found an ideal spot to roost in the ficus trees, which are near food sources such as Lake Merritt and the Oakland Estuary.
Last month, Pulido said he visited the injured birds in Fairfield and has spent $2,500 to pay for their care. Pulido, who said he grew up on a farm, said he loves animals and never meant to hurt the birds.
"I screwed up like every human being does, but I take my consequences," Pulido said. "When you make a mistake, you have to pay for it."
Four of the five young herons injured in the tree-trimming incident are now healthy enough to be released into the wild, said Ilana DeBare, communications director for the Golden Gate Audubon Society, on Friday. They are slated to be released at 1 p.m. on Saturday at East Bay Regional Park District's Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline Park in Oakland.
Reporter David DeBolt contributed to this report. Contact Natalie Neysa Alund at 510-293-2469. Follow her at Twitter.com/nataliealund.