According to the Stanton County Sheriff’s Office, two men have been subpoenaed in Nebraska after they hunted and killed a bald eagle.
The men, who are citizens of Honduras, have been charged with unlawfully possessing a bald eagle, according to a press release from the sheriff’s office. The men said they “planned to cook and eat the bird,” according to the press release.
The bald eagle, chosen as a national emblem in 1782, is protected by the Federal Bald Eagle Protection Act. The law, enacted in 1940, prohibits the “taking” of bald eagles — as well as their parts, eggs, and nests — without permission from the Home Office.
Stanton County Sheriff Mike Unger told CNN he received a call Tuesday afternoon about a “suspicious vehicle” near the Wood Duck Recreation Center. He sent several deputies to the scene, where they met the two men.
According to Unger, the two men only spoke Spanish. MEPs used an interpreter app to communicate with them. Through the app, the men said they “shot a vulture.” When MPs asked to see the vulture, Unger said they “voluntarily” opened the trunk of their car to reveal a dead North American bald eagle.
Unger said it wasn’t clear if the men understood that bald eagles were protected under federal law.
“Their actions would lead us to believe they probably didn’t notice (the birds are protected) — at least not as much protected as our national bird would be,” he said.
The men do not appear to have attorneys at this time, Unger said.
The Nebraska Game and Parks Department took custody of the eagle and the high-powered airgun that killed it, Unger said. Further charges against the two men are possible pending further federal investigations, he said.
Unger said in his 40 years of law enforcement experience, he has never dealt with a killing of a bald eagle in his county.
“Everyone here is obviously very disappointed that this has happened,” he said. “Some of the citizens are quite upset.”
The bald eagle population faced serious declines in the 20th century due to hunting, habitat loss, and the effects of the powerful insecticide DDT. But thanks to conservation efforts, including the ban on DDT in 1972, the species has made a significant comeback and was removed from the Endangered Species Act in 2007.