When 26-year-old Ernesto Pulido accepted a job to trim the trees near a post office in downtown Oakland, Calif., he couldn't have known that he was about to begin a surreal journey involving injured birds, enraged aviary advocates, and the possibility of spending six months behind bars and a $15,000 fine.
It all started when, while trimming trees on May 3, Pulido reportedly damaged the nests of five baby black-crowned night herons.
Pulido was reportedly asked to trim the trees by the post office because the birds were leaving their marks (and a lot of them) on mail trucks parked under the branches.
The birds fell to the ground and were injured. One's beak was broken.
A woman who captured the incident on video called the police, and a movement to punish Pulido quickly picked up steam, The New York Times reports.
Local residents demanded justice after rumors (which later proved untrue) spread that the birds were killed in a wood chipper. An online petition was created and signed by people worldwide.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service then asked the U.S. attorney's office to charge Pulido for allegedly injuring the birds, which are protected under the U.S. Migratory Bird Act.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., thinks it has gone too far. He has asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to provide his office with documents relating to the case against Pulido, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
In a letter to Daniel Ashe, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Issa wrote, "Prioritizing charges against a private citizen for incidental and relatively minor injuries to a non-endangered species ― commissioned by a federal agency, no less ― appears nothing short of bureaucratic bullying."
After the incident, Pulido spoke to CBS Bay Area.
"We are human beings, and we all make mistakes, and I am fully responsible for it. If I have to go to jail for that I will be more than happy to do it, because we all make mistakes," he said. Pulido has already paid $2,500 to care for the injured birds, according to The New York Times.
Andrew Harmon, spokesman for the International Bird Rescue Center, where the birds were taken, told the New York Times that they are expected to make a full recovery.
Follow Mike Krumboltz on Twitter (@mikekrumboltz).