Marion Brady's hummingbird rescue service has been grounded.
Brady took down her website and stopped accepting injured or abandoned hummingbirds on Monday, after she learned that she didn't have the proper permits for the work she was doing.
"I'm dumbfounded," said Brady, a career law enforcement officer. "I'm saddened that I can no longer help the birds."
For the past four years, Brady has been rehabilitating and releasing hummingbirds at her home under a permit held by Gilcrease Nature Sanctuary. Or so she thought.
According to Doug Nielsen, spokesman for the Nevada Department of Wildlife, there are only three such permit holders in Southern Nevada, and Gilcrease is not one of them.
And even if the nature sanctuary had the proper paperwork, Nielsen said, the permit would not extend to any rehab work performed outside the property.
"Her heart was in the right place," he said of Brady. "But what she was doing was way out of range."
Brady's work with hummingbirds was featured in the Las Vegas Review-Journal on July 7. Two days later, a state wildlife official who read the story paid a visit to Gilcrease.
Jessica Pigula is board president for the nonprofit nature sanctuary, which has operated in the northwest valley since 1970. Reached for comment Friday, she said she has to be careful and "tread lightly" because the facility is under scrutiny from state wildlife officials.
Pigula characterized the permit issue as a "misunderstanding" that has been made all the more confusing by recent turnover in the facility's office staff, including the departure of the previous executive director.
When Brady got word that she had to shut down, she was not amused.
She said the first hummingbird she rescued four years ago came from Gilcrease. Since then, she has successfully rehabilitated more than 30 of the tiny birds, an intensive and unpaid hobby that sometimes required her to hand-feed babies every 20 minutes or so.
Brady never advertised her services. She said most of the people she dealt with were referred to her by Gilcrease.
She would carry a copy of Gilcrease's permit with her whenever she went to pick up birds from people, and the carrier she used to transport the birds had the permit number written on it in permanent marker.
At the start of last year, she began requiring people to fill out a form anytime they turned a hummingbird over to her. Brady said she gave all the completed forms from 2011 to Gilcrease so they could be submitted to federal regulators.
"I thought I was all legit and everything," she said.
Nielsen said rehabilitating hummingbirds and certain other migratory birds requires permits from both the state Department of Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
He said in an email that the permitting process enables wildlife officials to make sure the people performing rehabilitation work "have the necessary experience to properly handle and care for the animals and are following accepted protocols and procedures."
DISEASE, ILLEGAL TRAFFICKING
It's also a way to prevent the spread of disease and the illegal trafficking of wildlife and to ensure that "people aren't just removing wildlife from the wild on a whim, that there is some order to things," Nielsen said.
For now, Gilcrease Nature Sanctuary is concentrating on caring for the animals it already has, but Pigula said "the ideal outcome would be to get us our rehabilitation permit."
Until then, she hopes people who find injured or abandoned birds will seek out one of the valley's licensed rehabilitation services. People keep trying to drop off baby birds at Gilcrease because they are familiar with the nature sanctuary, she said, "but we can't take them."
Brady can't either.
But here's the good news, she said: "Baby season" is over for the year, and all the birds she has taken in so far have already been rehabilitated and set free.
Brady retired this week after 20 years as a crime scene investigator for the North Las Vegas Police Department. She is now in the process of applying for her own state and federal bird rehabilitation permits.
She said she hopes to have them in hand by early next year, when hummingbird eggs start hatching around the valley and her phone starts to ring.
Contact reporter Henry Brean at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0350.