Louisiana Man Sentenced to 30 Days for Possession of Bald Eagle Feather

by Matthew Memrick
(Photo By Craig F. Walker / The Denver Post)

Federal prosecutors say a single Louisiana bald eagle feather will keep a man in jail for 30 days, but he could have faced big fines.

The Associated Press reported that Homer resident Daniel Glenn Smith got sentenced earlier this month. U.S. Attorney Brandon B. Brown said the 20-year-old man violated a law. Only federally recognized Native American tribes can possess any part of a bald or golden eagle.

Hold on now? Did the guy just pick the feather off the ground?

Nope. Smith admitted to killing an eagle and taking one feather from it in a signed statement. He kept the feather in his car.

Louisiana Man’s Bald Eagle Feather Results in 30-Day Jail Stay

Don’t think this law is new. Congress passed the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act in 1940.  

Americans see the bald eagle as a symbol of our American freedom.

“This defendant did not take this symbol seriously, nor the laws that prohibit anyone from killing or possessing even a feather of a bald eagle,” Brown said.

Magistrate Judge Mark Hornsby could’ve thrown the book at Smith with a $5,000 fine in the plea deal. Also, Smith faced penalties of up to $15,000 under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act for his acts. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also said the first-time maximum penalty is $100,000.

But Smith will go to jail.

Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries officials started their investigation after seeing Smith in a photograph with a dead bald eagle. Later, they searched his vehicle and found the feather.

Brown said Smith was on probation and banned from keeping a firearm for a year because of hunting violations involving other wildlife, Brown said.

Federal officials have used the law frequently to go after bald and golden eagle killers.

In 2017, the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act was among laws invoked when authorities found a South Dakota “chop shop for eagles.” That investigation brought 31 indictments; 17 people and two pawn shops got sentenced in 2018.

Ex-Gov Got In Trouble Over A Feather In 2018

Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo found himself in hot water over the federal law.

The man unknowingly broke when he picked up an eagle feather from a lake and unwittingly confessed to the act when he talked about the incident in 2018.

Cuomo faced a $100,000 fine for the feather. ABC News and The Associated Press said a Cuomo spokesperson would either put the feather back in the river or donate it to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife repository

“We have two options: put it back in the river or donate it to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife repository. We’ll do one or the other,” Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi wrote in an email to The Associated Press.