|Raptor Education Group avian technician Jacob Looze holds a golden eagle as Marge Gibson, executive director, injects it with medicine to treat lead poisoning. The center has taken in four hawks and two bald eagles, all of which were shot, since a fake video showing a golden eagle grabbing a baby was released on Dec. 18|
ANTIGO — An online video of a hawk grabbing a baby that was revealed to be a hoax could be behind an increase in bird shootings, one wildlife rehabilitation expert says.
The Raptor Education Group, a wildlife rehabilitation center near Antigo, has taken in four hawks and two bald eagles since the video was released, Executive Director Marge Gibson said. Six birds, all of which were shot, are at least twice as many as the center usually gets in one month, she said.
The video surfaced on Dec. 18 on YouTube and quickly became viral, gaining speed and views on sites such as Facebook and Twitter. It now has more than 41 million views. The video was created by students at a Montreal animation school; they admitted the video was a hoax on Dec. 19.
Gibson said the video sparked fear in people, and even though the students admitted it was a hoax, false information seems to spread much more quickly than corrections do.
“We’ve had people (in tour groups) ask if we’ve seen the video, but they didn’t know it was fake,” she said. “Fear makes people irrational, and when people fear something, they destroy it because they don’t know what else to do.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has received similar reports from around the Midwest and the country, said Carlita Payne, an animal recovery specialist with the Great Lakes region of the Service’s endangered species program.