These men ‘killed 3,600 birds’ including eagles. Now an arrest warrant is out for one of them

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Local tribes hope the case serves as a “warning” to others.

ANNOUNCEMENT

An arrest warrant has been issued for an American man accused of killing thousands of birds, including bald and golden eagles.

A federal judge ordered his arrest Monday after the Montana man failed to show up for his first court appearance, where a second defendant pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The two men, working with others, killed about 3,600 birds on Montana’s Flathead Indian Reservation and elsewhere over a six-year period starting in 2015, according to a grand jury indictment unsealed last month.

They are thought to have killed the Eagles selling body parts on the black market: a long-standing problem for US wildlife officials.

Who are the men accused of killing thousands of eagles?

Magistrate Judge Kathleen L. DeSoto issued a warrant for Simon Paul, 42, of St. Ignatius, Montana, after he failed to appear at his scheduled arraignment in U.S. District Court in Missoula.

Travis John Branson, 48, of Cusick, Washington, pleaded not guilty and was released pending further proceedings in the case.

The two defendants are charged with a total of 13 counts of illegal trafficking of bald and golden eagles and one count each of conspiracy and criminal violation wildlife trafficking legislation.

Paul and Branson collaborated with others who were not named in the indictment to hunt and kill the birds, and in at least one case used a dead deer to lure an animal. eagle who was then shot, according to prosecutors.

Text messages obtained by investigators showed Branson and others telling buyers he was “on a killing spree” to collect more eagle tail feathers for future sales, according to the indictment, which described Paul as a “shooter” for Branson.

The men then conspired to sell the eagle’s feathers, tails, wings and other parts for “significant sums of money,” the indictment adds.

The United States takes eagle crime seriously

They face up to five years in federal prison for each of the conspiracy and wildlife trafficking violations. Eagle trafficking carries a penalty of up to one year in prison for the first offense and two years in prison for each subsequent offense.

Bald eagles are the national symbol of United Statesand both the bald and golden eagle are widely considered sacred by American Indians.

U.S. law prohibits anyone without permission from killing, injuring or disturbing eagles or from taking parts such as nests or eggs.

Bald eagles have been killed in most of the United States over the last century, largely due to pesticide DDT, but later thrived under federal protection and was removed from the federal endangered species list in 2007.

Golden eagle populations are less safe, and researchers say illegal shooting, energy development, lead poisoning and other problems have pushed the species to the brink of decline.

“We just hope that if these individuals are proven guilty, it serves as a warning to others that we are watching,” Rich Janssen, director of the Department of Natural Resources for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.

Branson could not be reached for comment, and his court-appointed attorney, federal defender Michael Donahoe, did not immediately respond to a message left at his office. Paul could not be reached for comment.

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