Indictment of Two Men Accused of Illegally Killing and Trafficking Protected Eagles on the Black Market

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Montana Men Indicted for Alleged Mass Killing and Black Market Trade of Protected Eagles

In a shocking case of wildlife crime, two individuals from Montana, Simon Paul and Travis John Branson, have been indicted for allegedly killing approximately 3,600 birds, including bald and golden eagles, and engaging in the illegal sale of their parts on the black market.

The indictment, filed on December 7 in the US District Court in Montana, charges both Paul and Branson with conspiracy, unlawful trafficking of bald and golden eagles, and violating the Lacey Act. According to the US Department of Agriculture, the Lacey Act passed in 1900, is a tool for preventing the trafficking of illegally taken wildlife, fish, or plants.

Transcentrumbus could not confirm whether Paul and Branson have legal representation.

The allegations suggest that the two men conspired to “illegally kill, transport, offer for sale, and sell bald and golden eagles” between January 2015 and March 2021 on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Western Montana.

According to the indictment, Branson traveled from Washington to Montana to carry out the shootings, while Paul, residing on the Flathead Indian Reservation, was described as a “shooter” and “shipper” for Branson. Branson reportedly informed buyers that he was “on a killing spree” for eagle tail feathers for future sales. Notably, a golden eagle tail set mailed to a buyer in Texas was among the items sold, according to the indictment.

The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act strictly prohibits the “taking” of bald or golden eagles or their parts without a permit, including feathers. While the bald eagle is no longer listed as an endangered species, with an estimated population of 316,700 as of 2019 according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the significance of these birds as the national symbol of the United States is underscored in the indictment.

“The bald eagle is not merely a bird of biological interest, but this country’s national symbol, which reflects America’s ideals of freedom,” the indictment states.

Paul and Branson are expected to make their initial appearance in court on January 8, facing serious charges related to the alleged mass killing and trafficking of protected eagles.

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