PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. – A Florida man is accused of torturing and then fatally stabbing a blue heron, an endangered species, in front of children, authorities said.
Fritz Eugene, 67, of Port St. Lucie, was arrested on Monday and charged with aggravated animal cruelty and cruelty toward a child, according to Port St. Lucie Police Department online arrest records.
According to an arrest affidavit from the Port St. Lucie Police Department, Eugene’s wife allegedly called authorities and said she was concerned for her safety after getting into an argument. The woman then allegedly told police that Eugene had come home with a live blue heron, which he killed in front of her children, according to WPTV.
Eugene’s daughter told police that he went fishing before he picked her up from school, WPEC-TV reported. She added that Eugene had the bird in his vehicle and it had a broken leg, according to the television station.
According to the website of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, blue herons are federally protected by the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act and as a state-threatened species by Florida’s Endangered and Threatened Species Rule.
Cindy Dionne, the clinical director for Treasure Coast Wildlife, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, said violence toward wildlife, including blue herons, is not unusual in the area.
“You almost desensitize from it,” Dionne told WPTV. “There’s no reason that they should be harming these animals. They’re not posing any threat to them. They’re actually just in a body of water fishing and trying to catch their next meal.”
Eugene was released later Monday after posting $7,500 bail, online records show.