Skip to comments.Woman stumbles upon mutilated birds (Bald Eagles)
Posted on 02/04/2005 6:02:47 AM PST by Kennesaw
Woman stumbles upon mutilated birds
Who is killing B.C.'s bald eagles? Awful discovery sparks anger
By JANE ARMSTRONG AND MARK HUME Friday, February 4, 2005 - Page A1
VANCOUVER -- The mysterious discovery of more than two dozen mutilated bald eagles in the woods of North Vancouver has sparked revulsion and anger on the West Coast, which has been plagued by poaching for years.
"You just got this horrible, horrible feeling like you're walking into a crime scene," said Julie Bryson-McElwee, who discovered the dead birds Wednesday afternoon while walking her dog.
The grim discovery sparked disgust among animal lovers and instigated speculation about possible culprits. Indian tribes use eagle parts, including feathers and talons, across the continent for ceremonial purposes. But native leaders who were interviewed expressed disgust at the killings and resented suggestions of a native connection to the crime.
Ms. Bryson-McElwee said she spotted what appeared to be a white plastic bag at the foot of an embankment and went to investigate. The white image was actually feathers of a dead bald eagle. Ms. Bryson-McElwee thought nothing of it because bald eagles are a common sight in the Lower Mainland during midwinter.
Then she spotted three more, then another five.
Nearby, under a clump of leaves was another cluster of carcasses. The legs of all the eagles had been severed, she said.
"It got to the point where I was feeling very, very creepy."
Ms. Bryson-McElwee called an animal rescue service and the provincial conservation office, which removed the birds. All told, she counted 13 eagles, but the number is rising.
Provincial conservation officer Rick Hahn said ministry staff gathered 18 eagle carcasses late Wednesday. But yesterday, staff returned to the scene and found more carnage. Another eight eagle heads were hauled away, said Colin Copland, the conservation officer at the scene. The crime scene is on land belonging to the Burrard Band. Mr. Hahn said there are other cases of eagle killings under investigation in the Vancouver area, but would not elaborate.
The large pinion feathers on an eagle's wing can sell on the black market for $100 apiece. Breast feathers fetch $10 and eagle down is plucked and used in headdresses which, in Europe, sell for up to $85,000 to collectors.
However, a spokesman for the Burrard Band said Indian groups are disgusted by the killings.
"It's a horrifying event that's out of sync with any of our traditions," said Leonard George, the band's director of economic development. "The way that the eagle and any animal fits into our society is very, very sacred."
A source told The Globe and Mail that eagle poaching is a widespread and long-standing problem in British Columbia, with incidents on Vancouver Island, in central British Columbia and in the Fraser Valley.
The birds are often shot with a .22 calibre rifle, using bullets known as "shorts," which make little sound when fired.
In the 1960s, he said, 100 birds were poached that way in one winter near Harrison Mills in the Fraser Valley.
Over the years, the B.C. conservation officer service has investigated several eagle-poaching operations.
In 1999, conservation officers on Vancouver Island broke up an eagle-smuggling ring that had trafficked parts from 94 birds to the United States.
The operation was based in Duncan, near the Cowichan Indian Reserve. Six years earlier, conservation officers found 10 dead eagles in plastic bags along a road that runs through the reserve, although no connection was made to the Cowichan band.
That same year, the remains of several eagles were found in a garbage bag near Williams Lake in central British Columbia. The birds' wings and talons had been removed.
Bald eagles are a protected species under British Columbia's Wildlife Act. They are not considered endangered, but it is illegal to hunt or possess an eagle. Violators face fines of up to $50,000.
Conservation officers say they hand over to native groups the eagle carcasses they find in the wild.
Right now, British Columbia's Lower Mainland is awash in bald eagles. Each winter, thousands of eagles converge on riverbanks near Squamish, about an hour's drive north of Vancouver, to feed on fish. The annual eagle gathering draws bird lovers from across the continent. The eagles are even spotted soaring above Vancouver's landscape.
"I'm sick today when I heard that," said Thor Froslev, 72, a diehard birder who organizes the annual bald eagle count in the village of Brackendale near Squamish. "I'm just devastated. Who could do anything like that?"
David Hancock, an expert on eagles and author of Adventure With Eagles, said the major market for eagle parts would be within the native community, largely in the United States.
"It's a native, cultural market," he said. "Eagle feathers and talons would be of value mostly to Indian dancers, for use on Indian regalia."
Mr. Hancock said Cates Park, which is near where the eagle carcasses were found, is a prime nesting area for the birds.
If there is a positive side to be found in this it should be that there is apparently no shortage of bald eagles anymore. In fact, is some places they are beginning to reach nuisance status.
.....so did this woman commit a Federal crime by stumbling onto these birds? Remember the woman who was thrown in Federal prison for picking up an Eagle feather (which she didn't know at the time)....during the Clinton regime?
The mysterious discovery of more than two dozen mutilated bald eagles in the woods of North Vancouver
The bald eagles are as thick as starlings in the cottonwoods at Brackendale.
I've never seen eagles as numerous - literally thousands along one stretch of river.
No one is killing the BC Eagles. We are 19-0!