A man in Virginia pled guilty to breaking federal law by shooting and then running over a bald eagle and now faces severe penalties as a result.
Allen H. Thacker of Smithfield initially confessed to shooting the bald eagle with a .22-caliber rifle and finishing it off with handgun, according to The Virginia-Pilot. He denied running over the bald eagle with an ATV, but a female witness driving on Mill Swamp Road saw the man run it over three or four times and reported it to the authorities.
The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries launched an investigation culminating in Thacker's guilty plea, as detailed by the Attorney's Office of Eastern District of Virginia.
"Thacker, 62, shot the bald eagle because he was upset it had been hunting and taking fish from a pond located on his property," the Department of Justice news release explained. "Court records indicate Thacker first tried to scare the bird away with a warning shot. When that did not work, Thacker shot the bird with a Remington .22 caliber rifle.
"According to a necropsy performed on the dead eagle, Thacker's initial shot wounded the bird, but blunt force trauma to the bird's skull proved fatal."
According to The Virginia-Pilot, Thacker told U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents he had put in a lot of time taking care of his property so family could enjoy it. He also said he believed too much emphasis was placed on bald eagle protection because the birds were a menace.
Thacker now awaits sentencing on Oct. 23 in the U.S. District Court in Norfolk. A violation of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act is a misdemeanor and he faces a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine, though sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum.
The Virginia-Pilot reported that Thacker's home is 2 1/2 miles from one bald eagle's nest and 3 1/4 miles from another, according to The Center for Conservation Biology's Virginia eagle nest map. Both nests show they were occupied in 2017.
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