A vulture from the Golan Heights was captured Tuesday after it crossed the border into southern Lebanon, with residents initially assuming the bird was an Israeli spy due to the transmitter it carried with it.
The vulture was released after locals realized the device was not spy gear.
According to reports in Lebanon, residents of the southern Lebanese town of Bint Jbail found the large vulture on Monday. After they discovered the bird was from Israel and its homing device from Tel Aviv University, it sparked their suspicions.
"It would not be the first time residents of south Lebanon have found birds – including birds of prey – that serve Israel for research purposes," the report from Lebanon said, adding that "after examining the bird to make sure it was not carrying listening or spy equipment it was returned to nature."
Israel's Nature and Parks Authority said that vulture was spotted on the outskirts of Bint Jbail, some 2.5 miles from Israel's northern border on Monday. Reports received by the authority said local residents had tied the bird – that has a 6.5 ft. wingspan – to a tree after finding the transmitter on its body.
The authority noted that bird had recently been set free in an Israeli nature reserve to try to increase the local vulture population. Currently considered an extinction risk in the region, Israel brought the bird in from Catalonia last year to help spur the Middle East's dwindling vulture population.
This is not the first time an Israeli bird has faced espionage accusations. In 2013, Hezbollah reported catching an eagle carrying a transmitter, the bird also reportedly had a ring with the word "Israel" engraved into it, prompting the terror group to label it an Israeli spy.
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