WAN Investigator Talks Cases Of Eagle, Grizzly And Wolf Killings

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allaboutbirds.org

Brief historical summary of humanity’s war on key wildlife species

With our country’s 241st birthday, we have much to be grateful for. We should always reflect on positive improvements in accountability from humanity in our ecosystem and protecting wildlife. Both Bald and Golden Eagle species, including Grizzlies and all Wolf species share a common thread of a historical pattern of indiscriminate poisoning, and shooting that has been well documented throughout our country’s history.

Last month’s news reminded me when a colleague and I worked covertly in the 1980’s on a group of sheepherders in Central Idaho. A dead Bald Eagle was found near a sheep carcass illegally laced with a super toxic substance that was intended to poison a coyote or Grizzly instead.  We could never prove who committed the crime and no one was charged which is typical in many of these types of cases.

One of the most remarkable successful investigations was conducted in 2009 by a USFWS Special Agent and an Idaho State Investigator involving a suspect caught after lacing meatballs with a toxic substance meant to kill wolves in Idaho.  The world renowned USFWS Forensics Laboratory was instrumental in developing charges on this suspect:  http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/animals/a4160/4231025/

Another tragic impact on eagles over decades are documented accounts and investigations in remote areas of the West and elsewhere in the U.S. where eagles were shot from power lines to supply the underground black market in eagle feathers.  This market is quite challenging to penetrate.  A most recent wide-ranging investigation involving multiple defendants in the trafficking of eagle parts occurred this past April: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2017/04/25/15-charged-in-South-Dakota-for-trafficking-eagles-other-protected-birds/6691493140656/

In 1971 one of the most egregious events involving the mass killings of between 500 and 700 eagles was chronicled in Wyoming: http://trib.com/news/top_story/eagle-story-includes-dark-wyo-chapter/article_c7220443-1a09-56d9-83a2-f08b14a7c6ae.html . I still can see the nightly news cameras panning on countless of dead eagle carcasses.

The evil misuse of certain insecticides like Warbex or pesticides like Furadan or Temik that can kill a host of wildlife species has been documented for decades.  Just Google these toxic substances individually with the words “kills wildlife” and read the recent tragic accounts of these products being misused.  See how many African Lions in Kenya were reportedly killed in 2015 alone when you Google “Furadan kills lions in Kenya”.

Plea bargain by suspect charged in poisoning two Bald Eagles and three Hawks

On June 29th last month, a Pennsylvania man pled guilty in U.S. District Court to violating the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and was sentenced to two years of probation and fined $3,500.00: https://www.justice.gov/usao-wdny/pr/pennsylvania-man-pleads-guilty-and-sentenced-poisoning-and-killing-bald-eagles-and

Three Hawks were also poisoned in this tragic incident with the aid of farm employees.

Along with the main suspect, two farmhands received two incredibly lenient sentences considering the gravity of the wildlife crime involving the misuse of a poisonous substance:  http://lancasteronline.com/news/local/lancaster-county-man-farm-aides-sentenced-for-poisoning-of-eagles/article_353189b8-634c-11e7-816b-871072603e90.html

Federal Prosecutors need to push for greater penalties and include restitution

Assistant U.S. Attorneys need to pursue restitution for wildlife crimes and push for higher penalties, especially when it involves highly sensitive and protected species like eagles.

Between 1988 and 1992, when I investigated certain gold and silver mining operations in Nevada, I worked with a dynamic federal prosecutor who creatively added $10,000 in restitution to every protected bird I could prove died by cyanide poisoning.  This was in addition to the $10,000 fine for each protected species in multiple plea agreements for multiple corporations. Most of these birds were migratory waterfowl, shorebirds, and some passerine species.  Yet, not a single Eagle was ever poisoned and the penalties were substantial.

In one case alone, the federal prosecutor charged a foreign mining corporation in central Nevada that resulted in a $250,000 fine and $250,000 in restitution.  We both elected for the restitution monies, in that case, to go directly to The Nature Conservancy.

It appears to be a rare instance in recent times where restitution monies are collected in addition to higher fines.

What a checkered past of documented misdeeds to the valuable wildlife species across the planet that is still yet to be revealed or uncovered…

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