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Sunday, July 14, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Texan Fined $15,000 for Snatching a Baby Eagle

HOUSTON (CN) - A Texan was fined $15,000 for capturing a baby bald eagle on his property.

Sam Mathew, 53, of Missouri City, was charged in May 2012 with violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. A federal jury convicted him in December after two days of trial and one hour of deliberations, the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a statement.

Last week U.S. Magistrate Judge Brian L. Owsley ordered Mathew to pay a $15,000 fine, the maximum, and serve three years probation, including 150 hours of community service and anger management classes.

"During trial, the government presented evidence and testimony that indicated Mathew intended to catch a juvenile bald eagle for the purpose of training it in falconry," prosecutors said in the statement. "Evidence indicated there was an active bald eagle nest located on Mathew's property and he had already researched how to capture it.

"Mathew testified in his defense and claimed the bird was out of its nest and on a tree limb and had instructed two ranch hands to remove it. However, testimony indicated the bird was actually still in its nest when they were about to capture it. The eagle apparently got scared and fell out of the tree at that time and Mathew and one of the ranch hands caught it. The MBTA does allow the possession of nongame birds, but only if they are injured, sick or orphaned and if they are immediately transported to be rehabilitated.

"U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials learned of the eagle and that the nest housing it had apparently been disturbed and went to the residence. Upon arrival, they noticed there were fresh tire tracks around the tree and several broken branches as well as a set of tree climbing gear with ropes.

"Mathew claimed he thought the bird was injured and was rescuing it to take it to a rehabilitator. The jury disagreed and found him guilty as charged."

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