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Texas Teen Not Facing Charges for Shooting a Bald Eagle

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By George Khoury, Esq. on February 23, 2017 2:56 PM

The bald eagle is the national bird, and due to this status, as well as its general majesty, receives much deference from patriots, bird-lovers, and even the law. One Texas teen is learning about the later the hard way.

Seventeen-year-old Orlando Delgado was recently charged with a misdemeanor for hunting on property without the landowner's consent, despite having admitted to shooting the bald eagle, not once, but several times. Perhaps being so brave and honest when law enforcement arrived on the scene may have garnered the youngster some leniency. The young man should consider himself rather fortunate, as the penalty for killing a bald eagle is certainly more severe than merely hunting without a landowner's consent.

No Excuses for Shooting the National Bird

While prosecutions for killing bald eagles are relatively rare, judges are generally unforgiving, even when they believe the shooter was either drunk or just stupid, or both. As one defendant in Maine learned, mistaking a bald eagle for another type of bird is no excuse, especially if the other bird is also illegal to shoot.

Protections for Bald Eagles

Although bald eagles are no longer considered an endangered, or even a threatened, species, they have had legal protections for over 100 years now under US law.

  • The Lacey Act of 1900 was passed in order to make it a federal offense to kill, capture, buy or sell a bald eagle, eggs, or nest.
  • The Migratory Bird Act of 1918 prohibits the killing, taking, capturing, selling and buying of certain migratory birds, including eagles, their eggs and nests.
  • The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act of 1940 was passed in order to provide additional protections and even harsher penalties after the bald eagle was listed as an endangered species.

Currently, the biggest threat to bald eagles, apart from being shot, appears to be from wind farms. Apparently, the massive turbines kill thousands of birds every year, and not just eagles, due to the speeds at which the windmills' spin. However, the windfarm industry is able to purchase government permits that will allow their machines to kill eagles.

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