Two Men Facing Federal Charges, $20,000 Fine for Killing Protected Golden Eagle

by Matthew Memrick
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Two men are in hot water for the killing of a golden eagle in Idaho.

U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife officials said Wyatt Noe and Colten Ferdinand killed the eagle inside the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area near Kuna on April 10. Officials filed charges against the men on July 15.

The killing was not accidental, as officials wrote that the two men shot at the bird “knowingly or with wanton disregard for the consequences of their actions.”

Approximately 800 mating pairs of eagles, owls, eagles, and falcons each spring make it to the Idaho national conservation area. The organization’s website states that it is “the home of the most concentrated nesting bird of prey in North America.”

If convicted, the men could face up to a year and a half in jail with additional fines, per Newsweek. The men face an August 13 arraignment date.

Multiple federal laws protect both eagle species, such as the Eagle Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the Lacey Act, and other state and municipal protections.

History of Bald Eagles and Golden Eagles

In 1963, bald eagles were on the brink of extinction, with only 417 nesting pairs known to exist. The banning of pesticides like DDT and other hazardous chemicals and better awareness helped protect the species in 1972.

But careful management led to the bird’s recovery.

With the wildlife officials reporting in 2020 that the population has climbed to an estimated 316,700 individual bald eagles, there are still restrictions on hunting the species.

Although the Service removed the bald eagle from the list of threatened and endangered species under the Endangered Species Act in 2007, two acts remained. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act are still in effect. Both laws prohibit killing, selling, or otherwise harming eagles, their nests, or eggs.

Recently, windmills have factored into the deaths of eagles. Windmills kill anywhere from 234,000 to 328,000 birds a year, according to a national study by scientists.

In a more specific study, Shawn Smallwood, a California ornithologist, told PolitiFact in 2016 that about 100 eagles die each year due to impacts with wind turbines. Smallwood was cited as California’s leading ornithologist for the study of raptors and wind turbines. His work began in the early 1980s.

“Cumulatively over time, there have been hundreds of eagles killed, probably about 2,000,” Smallwood told PolitiFact.

Wildlife officials have not said what has happened with the Idaho eagle’s carcass. Bald and golden eagle remains usually go to the federally managed National Eagle Repository. According to the agency, federally recognized Native American tribes get the eagles, parts, and feathers for religious ceremonies.

The bald eagle, native to North America, is prominent in the nation’s history. The bald eagle found its way onto the Great Seal of the United States in a 1782 design.

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