Acting U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy announced today that William Wentling, 68, of Rothville, PA, pleaded guilty to violation of the Bald and Gold Eagle Protection Act before U.S. District Judge Jonathan W. Feldman. The defendant was then sentenced to two years’ probation and fined $3,500.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig R. Gestring, who handled the case, stated that in March 2015, the New York State Department of Conservation received a report of a dead bald eagle in a field on Thompson Road in Addison, NY. The defendant operated a sheep farm in Addison, adjacent to where the carcass was discovered.
Subsequent investigation determined that in May 2014, Wentling mailed a container of Furadan, a restricted-use pesticide known to be highly toxic to wildlife, from his home in Pennsylvania to his farm in Addison. In March of 2015, the defendant directed his employees to pour Furadan over sheep carcasses on his farm for the purpose of controlling predators, specifically, birds of prey. As a result, two bald eagles, two red-tailed hawks, and a rough-legged hawk died after ingesting Furadan-laced sheep. One of the birds was an adult female bald eagle, which was incubating eggs in a nearby nest at the time of its death. At no time did Wentling have permits to take any of these birds, alive or dead.
“As a bird, the bald eagle is emblematic of our great Nation,” said Acting U.S. Kennedy. “With this prosecution, we reaffirm two of the very attributes which lie at the core of our Nation’s greatness — our commitment to upholding the rule of law and our commitment to protecting of the most vulnerable among us.”
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement, protects wildlife through the enforcement of federal conservation laws,” said Honora Gordon, Special Agent-in-Charge for the Northeast Region. “The intentional placement of poison on bait carcasses not only poses a threat to protected wildlife such as eagles and hawks, but also to other animals and to people. We take these situations very seriously and investigate these crimes to the fullest extent possible. The result of this case demonstrates our commitment to investigating wildlife crimes together with our partners such as the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Division of Law Enforcement.”
“From Staten Island to Lake Champlain to Western New York, bald eagles are thriving in our state thanks to decades of restoration efforts,” Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos said. “I applaud the work of our Environmental Conservation Officers (ECOs), the United States Attorney’s Office, Western District of New York, and Special Agents of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for closing this case with a successful sentence. This will serve as a reminder that New York must remain diligent in our efforts to restore this iconic bird and uphold the conservation laws that protect it.”
In the early 1900’s, New York State was home to more than 70 nesting pairs of bald eagles, and was a wintering ground for several hundred more. However, by 1960, New York State had only one known active bald eagle nest remaining. Beginning in 1976, and continuing until 1988, the NYS-DEC Bald Eagle Program collected 198 nesting bald eagles from other parts of the United States, brought them to New York State, and then hand-reared them to independence. Today, there are more than 300 nesting pairs of bald eagles in the state.
The plea and sentencing are the result of an investigation by Special Agents of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Honora Gordon and Environmental Conservation Officers with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, under the direction of Captain Frank Lauricella.