Sigh: Indiana man faces possible jail time for nursing bald eagle back to health
posted at 9:21 pm on June 19, 2013 by Mary Katharine Ham
Local officers seized a bald eagle from the home of Greencastle, Indiana man, Jeffrey Henry and charged him with unlawful possession of the bird. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) received an anonymous tip that Henry was keeping the eagle in his apartment, an action punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. Bald eagles have been federally protected since 1940 when Congress recognized the need to guard the species’ diminishing population. The “Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act” prohibits hunting, possession and sale of the birds along with their nests and eggs.
As reported by WISH News 8, Henry had the bird in his home for 11 hours after several weeks of caring for the sick animal in the wild. The outdoorsman told the station that he noticed the bird a few weeks ago when he was hunting for mushrooms in Putnam County. The eagle was unable to fly, stuck in mud, and hungry, so he fed it fish eventually two times a day. When campers on four-wheelers arrived in the area, Henry suspected the grounded eagle would be in danger. He said, “I took him a fish out there and as we was leaving, the bird starting following me, and continued to follow me, there’s no way to actually chase him off because he’d turn around and run right back to me. So I put the bird up on my arm and we got in the truck and took him to the house.” Having previously worked for the DNR, Henry knew he was breaking the law saying, “I’m probably going to be in a little bit of trouble, which I understand.” Though Henry believes he made the right choice adding, “I chose to take the punishment over the welfare of the bird.”
Let’s hope, unlike say public school officials, whoever adjudicates Henry’s case can take his motives and treatment of the bird into consideration. He sounds like someone who’d take the $500 fine for the team (Team America) to have successfully kept the eagle alive. Sometimes well-meaning citizens don’t operate in exactly the way whatever bureaucratic wildlife organization would recommend in the same situation, but they should not automatically be in danger of jail time. It’s not like owning a bald eagle is a great boon to one’s finances. In fact, even if it was dead and stuffed long before doing so was illegal, it might cost you $11 million in a fight with the IRS.
This reminds me of a 2011 story in which an 11-year-old Virginia girl rescued a woodpecker from the family cat only to be approached by a Fish & Wildlife agent flanked by an armed state trooper informing them of a court date and a $500 fee:
[The] Capo family stopped at a Lowes in Fredericksburg and they brought the bird inside because of the heat. That’s when they were confronted by a fellow shopper who said she worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“She was really nervous. She was shaking. Then she pulled out a badge,” said Capo.
The problem was that the woodpecker is a protected species under the Federal Migratory Bird Act. Therefore, it is illegal to take or transport a baby woodpecker. The Capo family says they had no idea.
“I was a little bit upset because I didn’t want my mom to get in trouble,” said Skylar.
So as soon as the Capo family returned home, they say they opened the cage, the bird flew away, and they reported it to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“They said that’s great, that’s exactly what we want to see,” said Capo. “We thought that we had done everything that we could possibly do.”
But roughly two weeks later, that same woman from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service showed up at Capo’s front door. This time, Capo says the woman was accompanied by a state trooper. Capo refused to accept a citation, but was later mailed a notice to appear in U.S. District Court for unlawfully taking a migratory bird. She’s also been slapped with a $535 fine.
Good stuff. That same year, Fish & Wildlife went after an Idaho man who shot a grizzly bear in his yard because he was unsure of the location of all of his children at the time, some of which had been playing outside. Jeremy Hill, then 33, immediately notified state authorities of his actions, but was nonetheless slapped with federal charges. The charges were later dropped after public uproar, but the feds extracted $1,000 from Hill, informing him that it was a violation of the Endangered Species Act to have shot the bear a final time once he knew his children were inside the house. I suppose leaving the bear to suffer would have been the path they prescribed?
The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Idaho announces that it is dismissing the pending misdemeanor criminal charge against Jeremy Hill for the killing of a grizzly bear on Mr. Hill’s property on May 8, 2011.
Mr. Hill has agreed that, under the applicable provisions of the Endangered Species Act and related Regulations, his actions on May 8, 2011 constituted a violation of one of regulations authorized by the Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. § 1538(a)(1)(G) (stemming from his violation of 50 CFR §§17.40(b)(1)(i)(C)(1) and (2)). These mplementing regulations of the Endangered Species Act prohibit removing nuisance bears, except authhorized by government uthorities. Mr. Hill has been issued a notice of violation and paid a $1,000 fine.
During the course of their investigation, state and federal wildlife officials were unable to establish the location of Mr. Hill’s children when the three grizzly bears were first sighted in the yard, about forty yards from the Hill home. Mr. Hill informed law enforcement that he last saw his children outside playing basketball in front of their home, but that he did not know where his children were when he saw the three grizzly bears near his pig pen. He stated that he was concerned for his children’s welfare. By the time Mr. Hill fired the final shot, he was aware that all of his children and his wife were inside of their house.
On the bright side, if any one of these Americans can somehow argue they are proprietors of a windmill farm, they can pretty much kill all the endangered species they want without consequence.