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'Just Downright Evil': Little Neck Residents Believe Teens Set Fire To Osprey Nest

LITTLE NECK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Little Neck residents are outraged after an osprey nest was deliberately set on fire.

CBS2's Tracee Carrasco reported that state investigators are trying to find who started the blaze along the Nassau-Queens border by the Long Island Sound.

Chris DeGeorge witnessed last Sunday someone setting fire to the osprey nest in Udalls Cove as neighbors said it was set by two boys and a girl.

"There were some witnesses at Memorial Field behind here who saw the kids light it, even saw the smoke. They tried to yell to get them to stop, but they weren't going to stop," DeGeorge said.

Ospreys, which are part of the hawk family, began building their nests five years ago atop a concrete block at the edge of a mud flat in the cove leading into Little Neck Bay.

Neighbors said eggs seen in the nest just days before the fire were no longer there once it burned out.

DeGeorge's father said he believed the teens crossed the mud flat from the Long Island side.

"There's a beach there and when the tide is out, you can walk right across," Joseph DeGeorge said.

Udalls Cove is a designated bird sanctuary and ospreys are protected under both federal and state law.

A Department of Environmental Conservation spokeswoman said "the DEC will fully investigate any incident that damages wildlife."

Long Island is considered one of just two breeding grounds in New York for ospreys – the other is upstate. Last year, ospreys building a nest atop an old radio tower in Greenport fascinated bird lovers watching by webcam.

Chris DeGeorge said his group is now offering a reward to catch the heartless arsonists.

"What they did was negligent and just downright evil. The viciousness is just beyond what I can think," he said.

Joseph DeGeorge said it appears the ospreys are trying to build a new nest, but it may be too late in the season for any hatchling to survive.

The reward leading to an arrest has grown to more than $4,000.

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