Two men are facing charges after they allegedly tortured a great blue heron, forcing veterinarians to later euthanize the bird.

Ryan F. Slater, 22, of Wilmington and Michael Martindale, 28, of Jay were at the Jay Covered Bridge Aug. 8 when they spotted the bird along the Ausable River.

Ray Brook-based State Police said witnesses reported seeing the pair throw several softball-size rocks at the large bird, hitting it at least once.

The animal suffered a shattered wing and fractured leg in the attack and could not be saved, police said Friday.

Both men were arrested Wednesday on misdemeanor charges of animal cruelty and are expected to face environmental charges as well.

They have been released on appearance tickets and will face the allegations in court later this month.

Great blue herons are considered a protected species, meaning it's illegal to harm or injure them.

Federal charges could also be lodged due to the bird's migratory and protected status, officials said Friday.

SERVED TIME PREVIOUSLY

Slater, who has had several run-ins with the law, made headlines in 2009 after being involved in a high-profile police chase, a series of burglaries and ATM thefts across the area.

He served about six months in prison after he led police on a lengthy high-speed pursuit through the Town of AuSable.

Police were investigating a series of business break-ins when they tried to stop Slater, their prime suspect, and he took off.

He was ultimately caught and charged for both the chase and four burglaries at area businesses, where he stole cash and at least two ATM machines.

He later dumped the machines in Fern Lake, where they were recovered.

Email Andrea VanValkenburg at: avanvalkenburg@pressrepublican.com

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