The South Dakota United States Attorney is announcing 16 additional indictments in the underground trafficking of eagles and other migratory birds in South Dakota.
That brings the total number of defendants to over 30 in the two-year Project Dakota Flyer undercover operation.
US Attorney Randy Seiler says around 240 eagles, 150 hawks and owls, and migratory birds from every continent in the world except Antarctica were discovered during the Project Dakota Flyer operation.
These additional defendants are from North and South Dakota, Nebraska and Idaho, in both native and non-native communities.
Seiler says eagle feathers and other bird parts were being sold on the black market and in pawn shops across South Dakota.
“Whether you engage in black market trafficking for profit as an individual or a business, we’re going to charge you and hold you responsible and accountable,” Seiler says.
Seven pawn shops and employees are included in the latest round of indictments, ranging from Rapid City to Mobridge.
Seiler says the project is a bittersweet one.
“We were not please with the intensity and the extensiveness of the black market trafficking for profit," Seiler says. "Based upon that, we extended the undercover operation and look at it a various points and whether it should continue or not. As long as we were decisively engaged in identifying black market traffickers, we continued the program, the project.”
Seiler says Project Dakota Flyer is done for the time being, but he says they plan on using any additional information they gather to further uncover traffickers of eagle parts.