YouTube video of paraglider chasing owl prompts investigations
Federal and Utah state wildlife officials are investigating a video posted to YouTube last week that purportedly shows Utah businessman Dell Schanze chasing and kicking a flying owl while piloting a powered paraglider and then bragging about it.
The video, which was posted Saturday and had about 57,000 views by noon Tuesday, appears to have been filmed near Utah Lake from the pilot's perspective and shows the owl being chased for at least seven minutes.
The video, posted anonymously, starts with text stating "April is the 'National Prevention of Cruelty to animals month' Let's STOP this behavior!"
The title of the YouTube video is "Paramotor Pilot Dell Schanze ABUSES ANIMAL With Flat Top Powered Paraglider!" The pilot's face is never shown so it was not possible to confirm if it was Schanze.
However, shortly after noon Tuesday, the video was pulled from YouTube and displayed the following message: "This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Dell Schanze."
Attempts by a Salt Lake Tribune reporter to ask Schanze about the video on Monday resulted in hang-ups. Fox 13 reported that when it tried to contact Schanze about the video, he told them over the phone, "What in the world are you talking about? Don't try and blame anything on me, or I'll sue you."
Authorities who saw the video before it was pulled said they are investigating the incident.
"We are aware of the video as it has gone viral. We are glad it did, because otherwise we may not have known about it," said Tom Tidwell, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service resident agent in charge of Utah and Colorado. "Based on what I saw from the video, charges could be filed."
The Fish and Wildlife Service is involved because the owl is protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. The use of a paraglider to harass the owl also would allow charges under the federal Airborne Hunting Act.
Tony Wood, chief of law enforcement of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR), said his agency would "work alongside" Fish and Wildlife Service officials in the investigation and that Utah charges could be filed as well.
Investigators would not confirm or deny if it is Schanze in the video, but indicated that talking to him will be part of the process.
Schanze has had several legal issues involving paragliding in recent years.
The man who became well known for his "Super Dell" computer commercials was arrested in June 2011 in Oregon for paragliding off the 125-foot high Astoria Column, an historic city structure. According to the Daily Astorian, Schanze pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor offense. As part of a plea deal, he paid a $1,000 fine and wrote a letter of apology to the city of Astoria, according to the newspaper.
Schanze has also had several run-ins with the law in Utah.
He was found guilty in June 2010 of class B misdemeanor reckless driving and three seat-belt violations for an incident in Saratoga Springs in which he was driving erratically with several of his children in the car.
In August 2006, Schanze was found guilty of a class B misdemeanor in 3rd District Court for making false statements to a Draper police officer.
Also in 2006, Schanze pleaded no contest to a class B misdemeanor charge of public nuisance in Draper's justice court for buzzing Interstate 15 in a paraglider.
Tidwell and Wood say the video should help the investigation.
"Sometimes we rely on people using poor judgment," Wood said, "breaking the law, recording it and perhaps bragging about it."
Reporter Kimball Bennion contributed to this story.
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