Grand Jury Indicts Two Men For Allegedly Hunting And Killing Bald Eagles, Selling Feathers On Black Market

Dana Abizaid Contributor
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A grand jury in Montana indicted two men for allegedly hunting and killing 3,600 birds, including numerous protected bald and golden eagles, Reuters reported Wednesday.

Simon Paul and Travis John Branson have been indicted on charges of unlawful trafficking of bald eagles, conspiracy and violating the Lacey Act concerning trafficking of wildlife, Reuters reported. The alleged killings occured between January 2015 and March 2021 in Western Montana, according to Reuters. The two men allegedly sold feathers and other parts on the black market. (RELATED: Guatemalan Who Shot Bald Eagle And Planned On Eating It Receives Sentence, Faces Deportation Proceedings)

Prosecutors alleged that Paul and Branson hunted and killed the birds and then “illegally sold the eagles on the black market for significant sums of cash across the United States and elsewhere,” according to the indictment. The indictment did not specify how much money the men received, Reuters reported.

In one message that investigators tracked between Paul, Branson and the buyers, Branson wrote that he was “on a killing spree” and “out here committing felonies,” according to the outlet.

The bald eagle almost went extinct last century because of habitat destruction and fish contamination by insecticide DDT, which made eagles’ eggs weak and brittle, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Bald eagles were placed on the endangered species list in 1967 after Congress made killing them illegal in 1940, Reuters reported. In 2007, they were taken off all lists of endangered and threatened species, according to the outlet.

In November an illegal immigrant from Guatemala was sentenced to time served and potential deportation for shooting a bald eagle with the intention of eating it, KETV reported.

Paul and Branson face fines of $275,000 each and up to 11 years in prison if convicted on all charges, Reuters reported.