Federal agents suspect that a slew of eagle-poaching incidents in southeast Idaho is linked to the lucrative illegal wildlife trade.
Fifteen dead golden eagles have
been found in the last two weeks in wetlands on the Fort Hall
Indian Reservation. Since December 1992, 41 dead golden eagles have
been found in southeast Idaho. All the eagles had been stripped of
"It's the largest incidence of eagle
poaching that I've heard of in the seven years I've worked in
Idaho," says Steve Magone, special agent for the U.S. Fish and
Eagle wings fetch about $150
and tails $200 on the black market. Whole golden eagles reportedly
sell for about $500 per bird, officials say. The U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service (208/523-0855) is offering a $2,500 reward for
information leading to the arrest and conviction of the poachers.
Just as tribal fish and game officers discovered the dead birds at
Fort Hall, a Shoshone-Bannock tribal member, LaGrand Coby, was
sentenced to four months in jail and fined $1,700 for possessing
and transporting 14 golden eagle wings and three tails. The maximum
penalty for the federal misdemeanor is one year in jail and a
What officials don't know is who
shot the eagles. Coby, who never claimed he'd obtained the eagles
for religious purposes, told the court he had obtained the body
parts from a friend in Utah. But he refused to name the friend.
Shoshone-Bannock Chairman Marvin Osborne said the tribe may
increase the reward for finding the
"The tribe definitely does not approve
and we wholeheartedly support finding out who did this," Osborne
The spate of dead eagles began the winter
of 1992 when rabbit hunters near Aberdeen, Idaho, discovered six
carcasses in a pile. All were missing their wings, tails and feet.
Coby was stopped Dec. 30, 1992, on suspicion of drunk driving,
Magone said, and police discovered wings and tails in the back of
his Chevy Blazer.
A few months later, fish and
wildlife officers discovered 20 more dead eagles northwest of
Aberdeen. Federal lab experts were able to link the eagle wings
seized in Coby's vehicle with some of the poached eagle carcasses.
Coby never produced a permit for possessing the eagle parts, and in
any case, Magone said, he could only have obtained one golden eagle
The legal way for Native Americans to
obtain bald eagle or golden eagle feathers is through the National
Eagle Repository in Ashland, Ore. The repository collects eagles
that have been accidentally electrocuted, killed on highways,
poisoned or poached. In 1994, the repository sent the carcasses of
899 eagles to members of Indian tribes, but there are 2,900
outstanding requests for the birds, and demand from Indians is
rising, officials say.
works in Boise, Idaho.