"There is an atrocious story on social media that I intentionally hurt the seagull. It is illegal and immoral to injure a seagull. If I intentionally hurt the seagull in front of hundreds of witnesses, I would perhaps be the dumbest criminal ever."
Nate Rancloes may not be the dumbest criminal ever, but he did violate federal wildlife laws when he accidentally kicked a seagull that had stolen his cheeseburger. And it turns out New Hampshire Fish and Game officials are pretty strict when it comes to enforcing those laws.
Seagulls Got to My Burger
To hear Rancloes, a veteran who received a Purple Heart in 2005, tell it, it was all just a big misunderstanding between him and the birds:
"I'd like to apologize and explain what happened. I had just gotten back from getting a cheeseburger and fries. I was sitting on the sand. Seagulls got to my burger, and while still sitting in the sand, I spun around in a circle with my leg out to shoo it away, and unfortunately, did strike the seagull hard. It was a one in a million bad luck kick that couldn't be repeated. This is no more than a simple mistake. But social media has blown it into something it is not."
An eyewitness confirmed that Rancloes's "one in a million" kick was accidental, Lt. Mike Eastman of New Hampshire Fish and Game admitted that Rancloes didn't mean to strike the bird. "There was no culpable mental state that occurred," Eastman told NH1. "He didn't stomp on it. He hit the second bird with his foot."
No More Than a Simple Mistake
Unfortunately for Rancloes, that doesn't matter. Gulls are protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which makes it "unlawful at any time, by any means or in any manner, to pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill, attempt to take, capture, or kill ... any migratory bird." So accidental kickings of protected birds are the same as intentional ones, and Rancloes was fined $124.
As for the seagull, according to Eastman a woman picked it up and brought it to lifeguards, who told her to leave it alone. The bird then bit her and a child.
No word on fines for the bird.