By CBSLA Staff

HUNTINGTON BEACH (CBSLA) — A $5,000 reward is being offered for information about the person or persons who operated a drone that crashed in protected coastal wetlands in Huntington Beach.

(credit: California Department Of Fish And Wildlife)

A drone was found on or about May 13 after it crashed in Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve’s critical habitat nesting area for elegant terns, forcing about 2,500 of the birds to flee and leave behind 1,500 eggs.

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“Sanctuaries, like Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, are established so that wildlife have a safe place away from urban sprawl, light pollution, and other human interference – to thrive in natural conditions,” Stephen Wells, executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, said in a statement. “The blatant disregard for the law, and wellbeing of these birds and their offspring, is a concern we should all share.”

The $5,000 reward is being offered by the Animal Legal Defense Fund for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible for the drone crash.

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According to California law, drones must have a permit to operate in protected wetlands. The May 13 incident wasn’t the first drone crash in the area either – another crash landed in the reserved two days earlier. That drone operator was located and issued a citation.

California Fish & Wildlife are seeking misdemeanor charges against the drone operator relating to the destruction of the eggs and nests, harassment of wildlife, and illegal use of a drone. If convicted, the maximum penalty is up to a year in county jail, a maximum fine of $1,000, or both. That person could additionally face a maximum fine of $20,000 if convicted of misdemeanor animal cruelty, which includes the destruction of wildlife.

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Anyone with information about this incident can contact the California Department of Fish and Wildlife at 1-888-334-2258.