top of page
Search
  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Two men hunted and killed a bald eagle in Nebraska, sheriff says


The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, enacted in 1940, prohibits anyone without a permit from taking or killing the bald eagle, a protected national bird.

By Eduardo Medina


Two men were charged with misdemeanors earlier this week after they entered a private property in Nebraska, found a bald eagle perched on a tree and shot it at close range before hauling the large protected bird in their vehicle with the intent to eat it later, authorities said.


The men, Ramiro Hernandez-Tziquin and Domingo Zetino-Hernandez, both 20, were charged with unlawful possession of an eagle, according to the Stanton County Sheriff’s Office. Although they apparently might not have known they had killed a bald eagle, the men, who are originally from Honduras and do not speak English, could face additional federal charges as officials investigate, authorities said.


Hernandez-Tziquin and Zetino-Hernandez, who live in Norfolk, Nebraska, could not be reached Wednesday night, and it was not immediately clear if they had lawyers.


The rare killing of a bald eagle, America’s national bird, jolted local authorities, including the sheriff in Stanton County, Mike Unger, who said that in his more than 40 years of law enforcement work, he had never handled such a case in his jurisdiction of about 5,800 residents. The resurgence of the bald eagle, which was at risk of extinction 60 years ago when only about 417 nesting pairs were known to exist, is considered one of the greatest U.S. conservation stories.


Unger said in an interview that he received a call about 4 p.m. from a resident who reported that a car was driving through their private field near the Wood Duck State Wildlife Management Area, a public land where residents occasionally hunt.


Deputies then drove to the property, which is encircled by trees and hidden deep along a dirt path in Stanton County, about 100 miles northwest of Omaha.


The deputies found Hernandez-Tziquin and Zetino-Hernandez, who told them that they spoke only Spanish, Unger said, prompting the deputies to use a translation app to communicate with the men.


They told the deputies that they had shot a vulture, Unger said.


“Well, can we see that vulture?” one of the deputies asked the men, according to the sheriff.


The men said yes and opened the trunk of their car, revealing an air rifle, a BB pistol and a North American bald eagle, splayed and clearly dead.


Hernandez-Tziquin and Zetino-Hernandez told the deputies that “they intended to take it home and cook it and eat it,” Unger said, adding that it was unclear if the men knew that killing the eagle was a violation of federal law. He also said that it was possible that the translation app they had used incorrectly stated “vulture” in their communication with deputies.


“I can’t tell you what their demeanor was at that time,” he said. “Did they or did they not know it was a North American bald eagle? I have no way of knowing. They are Honduran citizens.”


Deputies contacted the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, which took custody of the eagle and the rifle that the men had used to kill it. The men were not jailed Wednesday because their charge was a misdemeanor.


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment Wednesday night, and a spokesperson for the commission declined to discuss the case in an interview Tuesday.


Joel Jorgensen, the spokesperson, said that eagles across the country, including the 400 to 600 bald eagles in Nebraska, “are really doing quite well.”


The comeback of the bald eagles is stunning, considering they were nearly wiped out by the widespread use of the synthetic insecticide DDT. A ban on DDT in 1972, along with conservation efforts, helped the population to rebound. The bald eagle was removed from Endangered Species Act protection in 2007, and its estimated population grew to 316,700 by 2019.


But recently, the species has faced a new threat: lead poisoning.


Researchers found last year that of the 1,200 eagles they tested, nearly half had been exposed repeatedly to lead, which can lead to death and slow population growth. Scientists believe that the primary source of the lead is ammunition used by hunters, who shoot animals that the eagles then scavenge.


While there have previously been rare reports of bald eagles being hunted in the United States, the killing Wednesday still came as a surprise to deputies at the sheriff’s office.


Unger said there are perhaps 10 or 15 bald eagles that have been gliding through the skies of Nebraska’s Stanton County this year, delighting locals who look up to search for them in the winter.


“A lot of people enjoy seeing them,” he said. “So I know a lot of people locally who are very upset about it.”



52 views2 comments

2 Comments


Rose Rose
Rose Rose
Mar 03, 2023

https://youtu.be/hpM13PCSegE

Like

Rose Rose
Rose Rose
Mar 03, 2023

https://youtu.be/hpM13PCSegE

Like
bottom of page