According to a US Department of Justice news release, 20-year-old Colten R. Ferdinand, of Boise, and 23-year-old Wyatt G. Noe, of Eagle, pleaded guilty to the crime on March 24 of killing a golden eagle in the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area.
The birds have been federally protected since 1940 alongside bald eagles after both species near extinction. US Magistrate Judge Candy W. Dale passed both men to two years of probation, as well as two-year hunting and possession bans.
Ferdinand forfeited a rifle, ammunition and two high-powered flashlights reportedly used while killing the birds.
Noe forfeited a rifle, pistol and ammunition. Ferdinand also paid a restitution of $3,800, while Noe paid $3,000, to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.
Department of Justice officials said Idaho Fish and Game, US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management began to investigate raptor deaths in March of last year after learning of multiple dead birds, including red tail, ferruginous and rough-legged hawks and golden eagles, along Big Baja Road. Each hawk species that was killed is protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
A Boise State University graduate research assistant working in the area told investigators that several dead raptors were found on March 13 and 14, 2021, all of them showing evidence of being shot. One bird that survived the shooting was taken to a veterinarian and later euthanized.
On March 20, 2021, nine more birds of prey were found dead near ammunition casings. Law enforcement witness Ferdinand and Noe on April 10, 2021, on Big Baja Road shining powerful flashlights and shooting at raptors.
Both men admitted to shooting at the birds when they were approached by law enforcement, according to the Department of Justice, and a dead golden eagle and five red-tailed hawks were found nearby. US Attorney Rafael M. Gonzalez, Jr., called the killings “senseless.”
“We take our mission to support fish and game laws very seriously, as do our partners in federal, state, and local law enforcement and land management,” he said in the news release. “The slaughter of migratory birds will not be tolerated.”