Nature

Central Texas Man Indicted in Deaths of Bald Eagles

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According to Texas Parks and Wildlife, a Bend, Texas man was indicted last month on two counts of killing bald eagles, a protected non-game animal. Jackie Brister, 82, also faces additional charges alleging he captured and killed numerous other non-game birds, including black vultures and turkey vultures.

Texas game wardens launched an initial investigation after responding to a call regarding a wounded bald eagle discovered near Bend on January 11, 2017. Unfortunately, the bird did not survive. Working in collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, wardens determined that the eagle had been shot by a rifle. Further investigation uncovered evidence of additional taking of protected non-game animals.

Bald Eagle Protection Act

Bald Eagles

Photo: Unsplash/tof Mayanoff

With help from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Criminal Investigations Division and the Lampasas County Sheriff’s Office, cases were made and filed with the Lampasas County District Attorney’s Office. In addition to citations for the taking of a state threatened species and non-game birds, Class C misdemeanors punishable by fines of $25-$500 for each case, Brister also faces a Class A misdemeanor violation for hunting without landowner consent. Brister could also face civil restitution for the eagles in an amount to be determined exceeding $10,000 each. In 1940, Congress passed the Bald Eagle Protection Act, which made it illegal to shoot or harass eagles. In 1969, Bald Eagles gained further legal protection under federal endangered species laws.

A Successful Recovery of a Formerly Endangered Species

Bald Eagle

Photo: Pixabay/Skeeze

The bald eagle was one of the first species to be declared endangered. Once thriving, the bird declined in numbers in the middle of the 20th century because of illegal shootings, habitat loss, and pesticide poisoning. Their recovery is now a success story. Nearly 10 years ago, the bald eagle was removed from the endangered species list and is currently listed as a species of least concern on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. Although they have made a comeback, bald eagles are still vulnerable to threats posed by environmental pollution, human disturbance, and habitat loss. With the assistance of conservation efforts, bald eagles can live to be more than 35 years old.