Two suspected illegal immigrants shot and killed a bald eagle with the intention of cooking it for dinner, and the town’s sheriff whose department arrested them says federal authorities, who could keep them behind bars, won’t return his calls.
The incident has left Stanton County, Neb., residents "disturbed" and "offended," county sheriff Mike Unger told the Washington Free Beacon. And as of right now, the two suspects are allowed to roam the country freely. The two men were charged with misdemeanors, and Nebraska law dictates the pair can’t be held in jail before their March 28 trial.
The murder of the once-endangered bald eagle, the national bird of the United States, occurred on Feb. 28 after Stanton County police officers responded to a report of a suspicious vehicle outside of the Wood Duck State Wildlife Management. Officers at the scene discovered two Honduran nationals carrying the dead bird. They spoke no English and carried no form of identification other than documents from the Honduran consulate, Unger said.
Killing a bald eagle is a violation of the 1940 Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, a federal law that carries a punishment of up to one year in prison. Federal authorities must bring those charges—in this case the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. But Unger says he’s reached out repeatedly to the agency and has gotten only silence. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did not respond to a request for comment.
"I’m very frustrated with the federal government," Unger said.
There is precedent for federal charges to be brought against bald eagle murderers. In June, a 79-year-old Tuscarawas County, Ohio, man pleaded guilty to killing a bald eagle while hunting groundhogs on his property. The man was forced to pay a $10,000 fine to the court and another $10,000 in restitution to the Fish and Wildlife Service. He was also barred from hunting for five years.
And in 2017 the feds brought charges against a 62-year-old Virginia man for shooting and killing a bald eagle. The man also ran over the bird with his all-terrain vehicle and said he was "upset it had been hunting and taking fish from a pond located on his property." The man was sentenced to a month of house arrest and 100 hours of community service along with fines totaling $2,000.
"I’m trying to be as politically correct as possible when I say this but I don’t know what kind of third-world life they’re coming from, but it must have been pretty bad," Unger said, before adding that his office will not release photos of the dead bird because it’s "very graphic" and "contains lots of blood."
Stanton County authorities communicated with the two suspects using a translation app on their phones and charged both with unlawful possession of a bald eagle and one with not having a driver's license. Police officers are not permitted to inquire about a suspect's immigration status, Unger said. The two men, who have a Stanton County residence, told authorities that they planned to eat the bird for dinner after shooting it with an "assault-style" air rifle, Unger said.
More than five million migrants have crossed the southern border since President Joe Biden took office. The Biden administration proposed a new rule last September that would ease restrictions over wind turbines killing bald eagles. In 2021 the federal government authorized companies to kill more than 600 eagles.