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Biologist sentenced for ignoring laws on golden eagles

August 13, 2013|By Tony Perry
  • The golden eagle is protected by U.S. law. A longtime biologist has been sentenced to probation and a fine in San Diego for not following state and federal laws.
The golden eagle is protected by U.S. law. A longtime biologist has been… (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service )

A well-known wildlife biologist was sentenced Tuesday to three years probation and a $7,500 fine for not following federal and state laws about catching and banding golden eagles.

John David Bittner, 68, of Julian captured and banded birds without federal or state permits and failed to send carcasses to the National Eagle Repository as required by law.

Bittner had pleaded guilty to one count of the unlawful taking of a golden eagle in violation of federal law.

U.S. Magistrate Judge David Bartick, in San Diego federal court, said Bittner seemed to put his financial interests ahead of rules meant to help the survival of the eagles. During the years in which Bittner did not have permits, his nonprofit organization was paid more than $500,000 for its services, Bartick said

Bittner was paid by power companies, developers and others to track the birds for environmental impact reports.

From Jan. 31, 2010, to Aug. 12, 2010, Bittner illegally trapped and marked 164 birds, including 37 eagles, prosecutors said. Of the 164, 144 (including 29 eagles) were trapped in San Diego and Imperial counties.

Paul Schmidt, assistant director of migratory birds for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said that the golden eagle population may be dwindling and thus it is crucial for rules to be followed involving the pursuing and capturing of the birds and peering into their nests.


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