This is about the lengths to which people will go to scam you.

The other day I came home and found a blinking red light on my answering machine. I listened to two messages from friends, then heard a stern, unfamiliar female voice.

“This is Officer Judy Smith, from the Department of the United (crackle crackle), and this is a final notice from the United States Federal (crackle crackle). The nature and purpose of this call is to inform you that we have received an eagle petition concerning a cat filed against you. Before the case goes to federal claims court or before you get arrested, please call immediately on our hotline: 619-503-1690.”

For a minute, she had me. I’m a wildlife rehabilitator, so I’m always ranting about things like eagles being lead poisoned or songbirds being slaughtered by outdoor and feral cats. I’ve received stacks of hate mail from hunters who use lead bullets (as opposed to copper), outdoor cat owners, etc etc etc. Uh-oh, I thought. I must have really pissed someone off.

But then I listened to it again. The crackling sound was strategically placed. Eagles don’t normally file petitions. And a bona fide officer would have said “before you are arrested,” not “before you get arrested,” which is something that anyone who has ever watched a crime show would know.

This may be old news, but you can put any phone number into your search engine and if it’s one like 619-503-1690, you’ll find a whole page of expletives from people who have experienced something similar. I just found it remarkable that I could be targeted so (species)-specifically.

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Written by Suzie
Suzie Gilbert is a wild bird rehabilitator whose shameful secret is that on more than one occasion she has received a female LBJ, or a fledgling whatever, and has been completely unable to ID it. Luckily she has birder friends who will rush to her aid, although she must then suffer their mockery. She is the author of her bird-rehabbing memoir Flyaway (HarperCollins) and the children's book Hawk Hill (Chronicle Books). Her recent suspenseful, bird-filled adventure novel Unflappable (Perch Press) was selected by Audubon Magazine as one of their Three Best Summer Reads of 2020. She lives in New York's beautiful Hudson Valley and is always up for a good hike.