Virginia Man Pleads Guilty to Shooting, Running Over Bald Eagle

July 12, 2017

A Virginia man on Tuesday pleaded guilty to killing a bald eagle, first shooting and wounding it before running over the bird with his all-terrain vehicle.

Allen H. Thacker, 62, of Smithfield, Va. shot the bald eagle because he was upset it was taking fish from a pond located on his property, according to a Department of Justice press release.

The incident was reported by a woman who told authorities that she had seen a person on a red, all-terrain vehicle run over what appeared to be a bald eagle. The woman said the individual circled the bird, ran it over several times, and finally dragged it into the woods.

Thacker was initially approached by officers of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. He told them that he first attempted to scare the bald eagle away with a warning shot. When that did not drive the bird away, he shot it with his Remington .22 caliber rifle.

Thacker initially denied running the eagle over with the A.T.V., first claiming he killed it with a pistol. Only later did he admit to running it over.

He told the agents that he believed too much emphasis was placed on protecting bald eagles, which he characterized as a menace, the New York Times reported.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service later took over the investigation.

A necropsy performed on the dead eagle showed that Thacker's initial shot wounded the bird, but blunt force trauma to the skull proved fatal. No evidence was found indicating a pistol was used.

The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, enacted in 1940, prohibits anyone without a permit issued by the Secretary of the Interior from "taking" bald eagles, including their parts, nests, or eggs. The act defines "take" as "pursue, shoot, shoot at, poison, wound, kill, capture, trap, collect, molest or disturb."

Thacker's sentencing hearing is scheduled for October. He faces up to one year in prison and a $100,000 fine, although actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties.