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Judge Issues Arrest Warrant for Man Who Killed Thousands of Birds

Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services

A federal judge issued an arrest warrant for a Montana man who was accused of killing thousands of birds, including bald and golden eagles.

About 3,600 birds were killed by Simon Paul and Travis John Branson, not only on Montana’s Flathead Indian Reservation but elsewhere over the span of six years.

The two men are being charged with a total of 13 counts of unlawful trafficking of bald and gold eagles, as well as one count each of conspiracy and violating wildfire trafficking laws. 

Written by the Associated Press, the article “Arrest Warrant Issued for Montana Men Accused of Killing Thousands of Birds, Including Eagles” states that “They face up to five years in federal prison on each of the conspiracy and wildlife trafficking violations. Trafficking eagles carries a penalty of up to one year in prison for a first offense and two years in prison for each subsequent offense.”

The arrest warrant was issued for Simon Paul after he failed to appear in the U.S. District Court in Missoula, Montana. Mr. Branson had pleaded not guilty and was instead released to wait for further proceedings in the case on the condition that he reappear for his next court hearing and not commit any further crimes.

While Mr. Paul and Mr. Branson are being charged as the main culprits, the two worked with other unnamed people to hunt the birds down. It is stated that they once used a deer carcass to attract and then shoot a bald eagle.

Since 2007, bald eagles have no longer been on the federal endangerment list; however, the golden eagle population has been fluctuating in the lower numbers. It is stated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that there are roughly only 30,000 golden eagles across the United States. Meanwhile, there are more than 300,000 bald eagles in the current United States population.

In 1940 the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act was enacted, which prohibited anyone without a permit from disturbing bald or golden eagles. Any acts of selling or trying to sell the eagle’s parts would be considered a criminal offense.

According to the Code of Federal Regulations, disturb in this case is defined as “to agitate or bother a bald or golden eagle to a degree that causes, or is likely to cause, based on the best scientific information available, (1) injury to an eagle,(2) a decrease in its productivity, by substantially interfering with normal breeding, feeding, or sheltering behavior, or (3) nest abandonment, by substantially interfering with normal breeding, feeding, or sheltering behavior.”

The two eagle species are held in high regard in the United States, with the bald eagle being our national bird and both eagles being widely considered sacred by American Indians. The golden eagle is also revered in other countries, as it is the national symbol of Mexico, Afghanistan, Scotland, Germany, and England. 

The two eagles also help maintain the ecological balance of their habitats. They often eat vermin like rats and other small animals that reproduce in masses, making it so their populations don’t become out of control.

With the rarity of occurrences like eagle trafficking staying unchanged, the golden eagle population is being threatened in the United States.

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