1. Headline
  1. Headline
msnbc.com
updated 8/2/2011 1:02:44 PM ET 2011-08-02T17:02:44

Saving a baby woodpecker from becoming a cat's next meal briefly turned into a legal mess for an aspiring veterinarian and her mom, before U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials let them off the hook.

  1. Stories from
    1. Renée Zellweger to PEOPLE: 'I'm Glad Folks Think I Look Different'
    2. The Voice: Gwen Stefani Makes a Strategic Steal as Battle Rounds Conclude
    3. Naughty or Nice? Chrissy Teigen's Christmas Morning PJs Are, Well, Nonexistent
    4. Michael Sam Cut from Dallas Cowboys Practice Squad
    5. Kesha Accused of Previously Denying Abuse by Dr. Luke

"The citation is null and void," U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Bill Butcher told msnbc.com on Tuesday. "We've rescinded it."

The Capo family's legal troubles started earlier this summer, when Skylar Capo, 11, of Fredericksburg, Va., saw a little bird in her dad's backyard — and then noticed the family's cat eyeing it, too.

"I've just always loved animals," Skylar Capo told WUSA 9 News. "I couldn't stand to watch it be eaten."

Skylar scooped up the woodpecker and looked for its mother. When her search turned up empty, she enlisted help from her own mother.

"She was just going to take care of it for a day or two, make sure it was safe and uninjured, and then she was going to let it go," Alison Capo told WUSA 9.

The Capos put the bird in their car to drive to Skylar's mom house. Along the way, they stopped at a Lowes Home Improvement Store, bringing the bird inside in a cage so it wouldn't suffer in the summer heat while they shopped.

A fellow shopper spotted the bird and confronted them, Capo told WUSA 9.

Read more from WUSA9.com

The woman worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and informed them that the woodpecker is protected under the Federal Migratory Bird Act, according to WUSA. Taking or transporting a protected species is illegal.

The act also prohibits the right to "pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill, attempt to take, capture or kill" birds listed under protection, according to the Fish and Wildlife Services' website.

The Capos brought the baby woodpecker home, opened the cage for it to fly away, and reported the incident to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Capo said wildlife officials told her, "That's great, that's exactly what we want to see," leading her to believe there would be no more discussion about the matter.

But two weeks later, the same agent who had confronted the Capos knocked on their door, this time with a state trooper. They gave her a $535 fine for taking the bird, and said if convicted of violating the law, Capo could face up to a year in jail.

That was a mistake, Butcher told msnbc.com. Capo doesn't have to pay a fine, and doesn't risk going to jail.

"They [the agent and state trooper] had gone to inquire about the health of the woodpecker," Butcher said. "At that point, they determined that no further action was necessary."

Despite this, Butcher said, the citation was processed unintentionally. He added that the agency has apologized to Capo and will send her a formal letter explaining the clerical error.

msnbc.com's Elizabeth Chuck contributed to this report.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments

More on TODAY.com

  1. Frank Ryland

    Watch this paralyzed groom walk down the aisle at his wedding

    10/21/2014 11:00:13 PM +00:00 2014-10-21T23:00:13
  1. Courtesy of Beau Coffron

    This dad's spooky Halloween lunches will wow you

    10/21/2014 7:31:19 PM +00:00 2014-10-21T19:31:19
  1. Jason Merritt / Getty Images

    Jennifer Garner: No one asks Ben about work-family balance

    10/21/2014 8:58:13 PM +00:00 2014-10-21T20:58:13
  1. Tim Rooke/rex / AP

    Kate's back! Duchess Kate appears for first time since pregnancy news

    10/21/2014 11:57:43 AM +00:00 2014-10-21T11:57:43
  1. Ebola outbreak: West Africans must arrive at 5 US airports

    All travelers from Ebola-stricken countries in West Africa must pass through one of five major U.S. airports with heightened entry screening before entering the country, the Department of Homeland Security said Tuesday.

    10/21/2014 4:22:36 PM +00:00 2014-10-21T16:22:36