Eagle nest destroyed; $2,500 reward offered

Associate Editor

Fort Snelling, Minn. — Federal and state enforcement officers
are seeking clues that will lead them to the person or persons who
cut down a white pine containing a long-used bald eagle nest. The
nest was located in a wooded area near Sartell.

A $2,500 reward has been offered to anyone who can provide
information that leads to a conviction of those responsible.

The 32 privately owned acres were due to be clear-cut by a
logging company. Pat Lund, the resident agent in charge for the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said there was evidence the tree
was cut prior to the clear-cutting project. The tree containing the
nest was cut with a chain saw; the others with commercial logging
equipment.

Lund said the tree was moved a few yards from the stump.
Investigators found the remains of one bald eagle egg in the nest
debris. Bald eagles usually lay two eggs, though one and
three-eaglet clutches occur.

“The eagles had returned to the nest a couple weeks earlier,” he
said. The act appeared to be blatant, he added.

The responsible party could face up to one year in prison and a
$100,000 fine. If an organization is convicted, the fine could run
as high as $200,000 under federal law. The laws that protect eagles
also provide for reward amounts.

Lund said the agency has received several calls on its hotline
since the tree was cut down on or around March 2, near the
intersection of Hwy. 15 and Stearns County Road 1. The USFWS said
the nest had been used by eagles for several years.

Lund said discussing a motive would be speculation at this
point.

The 32 wooded acres were part of an estimated 100-acre parcel
located just north of St. Cloud near the Mississippi River. Since
the discovery of the destroyed nest, the clear-cut has been
completed, Lund said.

Bald eagles are quite common these days along the Mississippi.
Lund said some of them stay in the area year-round. The most recent
survey (2000) indicates there are about 700 breeding pairs in the
state, up from around 200 in 1980. Like other birds, eagles thrived
following the chemical DDT ban, and when they received increased
federal protection.

In this case, two federal laws — the Bald and Golden Eagle
Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act — likely will apply.
The most severe penalties may be imposed under the protection act,
which came to be in 1940. “The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act
is our best weapon against crimes involving bald eagles,” Lund
said.

Even though the bald eagle became the national symbol in 1778,
eagles frequently were shot, until the protection act took effect.
The act first applied to bald eagles; the golden eagle was added in
the 1960s.

Why were eagles randomly shot before that? Lund said they were
thought of as predators. Some people simply wanted one mounted for
display. Some fishermen thought they were depleting their
livelihoods, while farmers and ranchers believed they were killing
their young livestock, Lund said.

He said the Migratory Bird Treaty Act also could apply, should
it be found that eagles were “taken.”

Eagle “parts” — primarily feathers and talons — are illegally
bought and sold in the United States, Lund said.

People with information about the destruction of the eagle nest
are urged to call a special hotline number (800) 532-2887, the
USFWS St. Paul Law Enforcement office at (651) 778-8360, or the
Minnesota DNR’s Turn in Poachers line at (800) 652-9093. Callers
may remain anonymous.

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