The ID number on the badge read 2190-72068, but the agent wasn’t cooperative in providing that information initially. The agent seemed extremely nervous and kept making these sudden movements from place to place around the property. It was April 10th this year and the last thing you need five days prior to tax day is a federal agent of any feather showing up at your home. This agent wore formal attire from his black cap and bow tie, to his buff-colored waistcoat and gray striped topcoat. But this individual had made one glaring mistake. The socks didn’t match. First, there were two socks of different colors on the right leg; one was silver and one red. I’d never actually seen a silver sock before, but somehow this character pulled off the look with style. The silver one actually looked more like some sort of monitoring device. That made me even more suspicious. But it was the red one that repeatedly drew my attention. As the agent moved, that red legging just kept flashing at me. The sock on the left leg was bright orange. That made me imagine this was some federal prisoner on the run, but in my rural setting someone like this should stand out like a sore thumb. Who was this that just shows up at my house unannounced?
I decided that my best approach would be an aggressive one. I grabbed my camera and walked towards the agent. If something untoward was going to happen, I was going to have a visual record of this individual. To my surprise the agent stood his ground. He even bent over and seemed to be adjusting the socks. It was only then that I realized this cool customer was eating sunflower seeds.
A moment and three photos later the agent was gone. He seemingly just vanished into thin air. To this day I’ve not seen the individual again, but my search to learn his history had only just begun. I decided to align my resources in the best way to minimize wasted effort and draw in the most skilled people I could find to help. I knew that the federal agencies involved would likely be the best resource, but I also thought that action alone could present some obstacles. Governmental bureaucracy could be tough to navigate in the best of situations, let alone when you have so little information to work with.
I ended up being correct about the silver monitoring device on the leg, but it turned out that in order to use federal tracking programs with the greatest efficiency the agent has to be dead, or at least in custody. That’s the only way to read the badge number with any accuracy it appears. Older monitoring devices had a high failure rate apparently and this seemed to be one of those events. My hopes of ever learning the agent’s true identity seemed futile. My next step in order to wend my way through the federal systems was to contact all the state agencies that may have back door access to the resources I needed and hope to find a sympathetic ear willing to take a chance on helping me. I was obsessed and had to learn more about this unexpected visitor to my home. The state agencies had little to offer and even less time to invest in a wild goose chase. Law enforcement was no help, since the intruder did nothing wrong other than steal some sunflower seeds I had carelessly left lying around in containers.
Witness protection was no help at all and the parole board and department of corrections weren’t releasing any information on the monitoring equipment on the agent’s leg. I was beginning to lose hope. Suddenly, four days after my inquiries began; I got a phone call from a biologist aligned with a non-profit organization here in New Hampshire. Her curiosity about my call got the better of her and she was willing to take a chance and get involved in the case. We exchanged phone contacts and computer communications over several days. Shortly thereafter, a professor at Antioch University became engaged in the effort. He remembered one of his researchers had been involved in a similar case in the early years of this millennium. That researcher had been directly involved in the monitoring procedure and had recorded the identity of the federal agent.
It was Black Cap Chickadee #2190-72068 working for the USGS. The monitoring device was attached to the agent’s leg in Spofford, NH on March 6th, 2002. The agent was an adult when the monitoring device was attached and all involved were surprised to learn that the agent had survived this long. The agent’s sex was unknown when the monitor was attached and it is presumed to have been born in 2001 or earlier.
I’d like to publicly thank Rebecca Suomala at NH Audubon and Dr. Jonathon Atwood at Antioch University for their assistance in bringing closure to this unusual encounter. The agent had managed to remove a yellow plastic marker from its left leg in an effort to inhibit pursuit. Stay vigilant folks. They’re out there!
Alan Briere is an award winning photographer and outdoor writer and the outdoor photography instructor for the NH Becoming an Outdoors Woman program. Alan lives in Acworth, NH with four lovely ladies. His wife Cheryl and their Brittanys; Gypsy, Penny and Millie.