June 12, 2010
Yakima, Washington – Today, James A. McDevitt, United
States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced
that Alfred L. Hawk Jr., age 23, and William R. Wahsise, age 23,
both of White Swan, Washington, pleaded guilty to killing bald
eagles and conspiring to take and sell bald and golden eagle parts
in violation of federal law. A sentencing hearing is set for
October 13, 2010.
According to court documents, Alfred L. Hawk, Jr. and William R.
Wahsise, both Yakama tribal members, hunted and killed eagles by
baiting them with wild horses that were killed to attract the
eagles. In March 2009, wildlife agents seized 21 golden eagle
tails, 30 golden eagle wings, 31
bald eagle tails, two bald eagle wings from Alfred L. Hawk, Jr.’s
residence and approximately five golden eagle tails, 22 golden
eagle wings, and assorted feathers from golden eagles and bald
eagles from William R. Wahsise’s residence.
Hawk pleaded guilty to three felony charges and one misdemeanor,
while Wahsise pleaded guilty to one felony and one misdemeanor.
James A. McDevitt, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of
Washington, said, “The indiscriminate slaughter of these protected
birds is alarming. The black market sale of eagle parts must be
stopped at its source.”
“The criminal actions of these defendants defile respectful Native
American religious and cultural observances and I hope the
community will come together in condemning their behavior,” said
Paul Chang, Special Agent in Charge of Law Enforcement for the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Pacific Region. “There are legal
ways to obtain eagle feathers and parts and we are committed to
helping tribal members acquire them through these methods.”
Eagles and other protected migratory birds are viewed as sacred in
many Native American cultures, and the feathers of the birds are
central to religious and spiritual Native American customs. By
law, enrolled members of federally-recognized Native American
tribes are entitled to obtain permits to possess eagle parts for
religious purposes but federal law strictly prohibits selling
eagle parts under any circumstances. The Fish and Wildlife Service
operates the National Eagle Repository, which collects eagles that
die naturally or by accident, to supply enrolled members of
federally recognized tribes with eagle parts for religious use.
The Service has worked to increase the number of salvaged eagles
sent to the Repository and make it easier to send birds to the
facility by providing shipping materials at no charge. The
Repository obtains eagles from state and federal agencies as well
The penalty for a first time violation of the
Bald and Golden
Eagle Protection Act is up to one year in prison and a $250,000
fine, and the second or subsequent conviction is up to two years
in prison and a $250,000 fine. The penalty for conspiring to take
and sell bald and golden eagle parts is up to five years in prison
and a $250,000 fine. This investigation was conducted by the U.S.
Fish & Wildlife Service, with the assistance of state and tribal
wildlife authorities. This case is being prosecuted by Tim Ohms,
Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington.