Collin County game wardens conducted an undercover sting and cited people who were trying to sell a bird of prey online.
Authorities in Van Zandt County tipped wardens off to an ad on Craigslist for a great horned owl. Game wardens went undercover and posed as buyers. They haggled a price and a location to meet in McKinney.
"[We] happened to seize what was not a great horned owl but a screech owl -- a juvenile gray phase screech owl," said Joshua Ross, Collin County game warden.
It is illegal to possess, own, sell or breed any bird of prey without a special permit.
"Technically, you're in violation of the law just being in possession of it," Ross said.
Ross said the sellers told game wardens that they found the bird near a tree, took it home and cared for it before deciding to sell it.
The sellers face multiple citations but were not arrested, Ross said. Game wardens said they believe the sellers' story about finding the owl but said it doesn't excuse their efforts to try to sell the bird.
Normally, wildlife experts like to re-release urban wildlife back into their natural habit. But it may be too late for the baby screech owl, who now relies on humans for food and care, Ross said.
"Now the bird thinks that humans are its parents, and it's codependent on humans to feed it," he said. "And so that's where the injustice comes in -- is now that this bird has been imprinted, he's not going to be able to be just freely returned back into the wild."
Ross said people should call the proper authorities whenever they discover a wild animal.
"And the best place for them to be is out in the wildlife and not ... [as] somebody's pet because wild animals do not make good pets," he said.