Fifteen people are being indicted in South Dakota for the illegal trafficking of hundreds of migratory birds. Officials with the US Fish and Wildlife Service say it’s one of the largest cases of bird trafficking they’ve uncovered.
They are charged with trafficking eagles and other migratory birds.
The indictments are a result of a two-year investigation into bird trafficking. They say roughly 250 eagles, and over one-hundred hawks and owls have been trafficked during this time.
Randy Seiler is the US Attorney for South Dakota. He says this was an illegal black market trafficking of eagles and eagle parts, like feather, talons and beaks, for profit.
“There was no cultural sensitivity, there was no spirituality, there was no tradition in the manner with which these defendants handled these birds," Seiler says. "It basically was a chop shop for eagles. They had eagle feathers stuffed in garbage bags, in Wal-Mart bags—blood all over, transported them in various vehicles and coolers.”
Seiler says the defendants in the case are both native and non-native. He says he expects federal charges against the defendants.
Dan Rolince is an assistant special agent with the US Fish and Wildlife Service. He says bird trafficking is happening across the country and into Canada…
“Although the scope of today’s announcements and indictments is South Dakota, there has been information and spinoff cases—because of this one—in other parts of the country as well," Rolince says. "This is not a localized problem, it’s a national problem.”
Rolince says traffickers are selling these birds for anywhere from 1,000 to 1,200 dollars.
Initial appearances for the defendants are set for May first in Rapid City.