With the unsolved poaching of a flock of bald eagles on the back of their minds, Washington game wardens expressed outrage this afternoon at the slap on the wrist a man got for killing six eagles in Oregon.
Thomas Valentino Adams was sentenced to pay all of $250 by a federal court in Portland, or $41.67 a bird as a regional radio show put it.
“A mere $250 for needlessly killing animals that are viewed by the masses as a symbol of our great nation… seriously??” posted Deputy Chief Mike Cenci and another official at the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife Enforcement Division on their Facebook page.
The case began in 2009 when Adams and another man were spotted in North-central Oregon doing what looked like hunting eagles. They denied it, but according to Northwest Public Radio, DNA tests proved that blood at his home came from six different bald and golden eagles.
Though no longer considered endangered, the raptors are still protected by federal laws.
Sentencing occurred last month; Adams also got a year’s probation.
“Thinking beyond the investigative investment alone in this one single case, it is quite clear that this is a loss on many different levels for fish and wildlife resources, and those who work so hard to protect them for future generations to enjoy..
“When the crime is seemingly worth the time, what’s the deterrent? We can give you plenty of examples of cases here in Washington where fish and wildlife violations were treated in a similarly dismissive fashion. “Why is this?” you might ask. Well, wildlife crimes are often characterized as “victimless crimes,” a short-sighted perspective in our opinion, as poaching constitutes a theft from the public at the very minimum. But when you look at the millions — no, BILLIONS — of tax dollars invested in repairing the damage caused to fish and wildlife populations over time, the perception of natural resource crimes being “victimless” seems somewhat uninformed at best.
“Our courts must learn to recognize how a single illegal act against our natural resources can impact the much larger, long-term picture. This realization should shock the conscience, as much as the outcome of this case…
Northwest Public Radio explained how the light sentence came about:
Ryan Bounds, Assistant U.S. Attorney, didn’t recommend a fine in the government’s sentencing memorandum. He said fines are rare in these kinds of cases. Defendants often don’t have the means to pay them.
Bounds said the year probation and $250 fine in this case was a result of Adams’ relatively thin criminal record and a low chance of recidivism, as he’s since moved to Texas. Had there been evidence Adams was feeding a lucrative black market, the fine would have been higher, but there wasn’t enough evidence to support that, Bounds said.
“Here, he was breaking the law but not causing harm to or endangering any person,” Bounds said. “It was closer to a property crime, with the government as a victim.”
As for that open case I referenced at the top, there’s a $20,000-plus reward for information about the shooting of four bald eagles at a lake east of Granite Falls.
The incident occurred sometime last winter and remains unsolved.