Magpie who befriended pet surrendered to authorities

Source: Instagram/Juliette Wells

A remarkable and enduring friendship between a dog and a magpie has come to an end following the intervention of Queensland authorities.

In 2020, Juliette Wells and her husband Reece Mortensen came across an injured baby magpie on a walk during lockdown. The couple decided to take in the injured chick – they would go on to call him Molly.

Once at home, Molly formed an unlikely friendship with one of the couple’s pet Staffordshire bull terriers, Peggy.

Since then, the enduring friendship has been documented for all to see on social media. The animals’ joint account, which occasionally features Peggy’s daughter, Ruby, has more than 700,000 followers on Instagram.

Molly would gently nibble on Peggy’s ear and place his wing over the dog when she was lying in the sun. In one video, it seemed Molly even tried to emulate the barks of the dogs.

On Tuesday night, Wells and Mortensen sat down with their dogs between them to make a video announcing they had surrendered Molly to Queensland’s Department of Environment, Science and Innovation.

They said department officials had come to their house in mid-2023, but they refused to surrender the bird.

“We refused as he was thriving in the trees surrounding our property and had been accepted here, and after long discussions, they left and we thought everything was OK,” Wells said.

Mortensen said the couple had tried to do everything to work with the department, including training the bird and trying to get a wildlife permit, but he had to retract his application, as their social accounts were a conflict.

“We are devastated to give you this news and, of course, so are these beautiful girls because they’ve lost their best friend,” Wells said, gesturing to their dogs.

Magpie not able to be released into the wild

In a statement to TND, a DESI spokesperson said a magpie that was “allegedly being unlawfully kept”, was voluntarily surrendered to the department on March 1.

DESI alleges the bird was taken from the wild, kept unlawfully, without a permit, licence or authority being issued by the department.

“All Queensland native animals are protected under the Nature Conservation Act 1992. To keep a native animal that originates from the wild, a person must have a permit, licence or authority to lawfully have the animal in their possession,” the spokesperson said.

“Animals that are sick, orphaned or injured must go to a person who holds a valid rehabilitation permit, which are issued to people who have demonstrated skills, knowledge and experience dealing with and caring for native animals.”

Since the couple’s announcement, nearly 10,000 people have signed a petition calling on DESI to reunite Peggy and Molly.

On Wednesday, Queensland Premier Steven Miles also backed the campaign, encouraging wildlife officers to work with Wells and Mortensen to return Molly.

“I gotta say, I’ve got some sympathy for people supporting Molly the magpie,” he said.

The DESI spokesperson said rehabilitation was designed to give native wildlife appropriate care, so they could be returned to the wild.

During rehabilitation, human contact is minimised to ensure the native animal can “exhibit natural instincts and behaviour” and native animals should been kept away from pets.

“Animals in rehabilitation must not associate with domestic animals due to the potential for them to be subjected to stress and the risks of behavioural imprinting and transmission of diseases,” the spokesperson said.

“Animals from the wild must stay wild.”

Molly is in the department’s care; however, given he has been “highly habituated to human contact”, he will not be able to be released back into the wild.

DESI is trying to find an appropriate home for Molly. An investigation is underway.

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