PROVIDENCE (WBSM) — A Rhode Island man has been charged with violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act after he allegedly shot at, injured and in some cases killed red-tailed and Cooper hawks while trying to protect squirrels.

According to U.S. Attorney Zachary A. Cunha, Robert J. Ferreira, 64, of Portsmouth violated the act while trying to keep the hawks away from his property.

Ferreira allegedly used a pump-action pellet air gun on multiple occasions between October 1, 2018 and April 18, 2021 to shoot at hawks in his backyard.

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“Ferreira is alleged to have told a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent that he estimates that he shot at approximately 50-80 hawks, which he believed were a threat to squirrels that visited squirrel feeders on his property,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a release.

Court documents state that neighbors reported hearing popping sounds coming from Ferreira’s property “consistent with the firing of a weapon,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said, and the neighbors “found approximately eight injured and deceased hawks on or near Ferreira’s property.”

The matter was investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement.

Ferreira is charged with four counts of hunting, taking, killing or attempting to kill migratory birds, which is a violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Ferreira is scheduled to be arraigned on October 12. If convicted, he faces up to six months in prison and a fine of up to $15,000 on each of the four counts.

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Gallery Credit: Meagan Drillinger

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