Animal Rights

Four Men Arrested for Killing Protected Birds, Selling Feathers

| by DOJ

WASHINGTON --- Four
men have been arrested by special agents of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
as the result of an undercover investigation into the illegal killing and trade
of bald and golden eagles and other protected birds, the Justice Department and
the Fish and Wildlife Service announced today.

The men are charged in four
complaints with alleged violations of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act,
the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and the Lacey Act.

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Ricky Sam Wahchumwah of Granger, Wash.,
Alfred L. Hawk Jr. of White Swan, Wash.,
William Wahsise also of White Swan, and
Reginald Dale Akeen also known as J.J.
Lonelodge of Anadarko, Okla., were arrested.

The charging documents, unsealed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern
District of Washington and the District of
Oregon, collectively allege that the individuals were
involved in killing eagles and selling feathers and other bird parts in
violation of the law.

According to an affidavit filed along with the complaints, special agents
working undercover were able to document the sales of protected migratory bird
parts. One complaint alleges that a single covert purchase from Hawk Jr. yielded
a bald eagle tail, two golden eagle tails, one set of golden eagle wings, four
red-shafted northern flicker tails, four rough-legged hawk tails and two
northern harrier tails for a total of $3,000.

According to the
documents, Hawk, Jr. and Wahsise allegedly hunted and killed three bald eagles
the morning of the sale by sitting near some wild horses killed to bait and
attract eagles. A third complaint alleges that Wahchumwah sold one golden eagle
tail in violation of the law. The sworn affidavit accompanying the complaint
states that Wahchumwah sold the tail to an undercover special agent for
$500.

A fourth complaint, filed in the District of Oregon,
alleges that Akeen made several sales to an undercover agent, including two fans
made from juvenile golden eagle feathers worth over $3,000.

Eagles and other protected migratory birds are viewed as sacred in many
Native American cultures, and the feathers of the birds are central to religious
and spiritual Native American customs. By law, enrolled members of
federally-recognized Native American tribes are entitled to obtain permits to
possess eagle parts for religious purposes but federal law strictly prohibits
selling eagle parts under any circumstances.

The Fish and Wildlife Service
operates the National Eagle Repository, which collects eagles that die naturally
or by accident, to supply enrolled members of federally recognized tribes with
eagle parts for religious use. The Service has worked to increase the number of
salvaged eagles sent to the Repository and make it easier to send birds to the
facility by providing shipping materials at no charge. The Repository obtains
eagles from state and federal agencies as well as zoos.

The charges and allegations contained in the complaints are merely
accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven
guilty.

The maximum penalty for a violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, as
charged, includes up to two years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The maximum penalty for a first time violation of the Bald and Golden Eagle
Protection Act includes one year in prison and $250,000 fine and
the maximum penalty for a felony violation of the Lacey Act includes up to five
years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for
conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their
habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The arrests
announced today are part of an on-going investigation into the illegal killing
of bald and golden eagles and other protected birds and the sale of their
feathers and parts. The agency is conducting the investigation with the help and
cooperation of state, federal and tribal law enforcement agencies.

The cases are being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Offices of the Eastern
District of Washington, the District of
Oregon and the Justice Department's Environmental Crimes
Section.

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