Two Wisconsin potato farmers could find themselves behind bars for using poison-laced bait to kill predators that ended up killing at least one bald eagle.
Alvin Sowinski, 65, and his son Paul Sowinski, 46, of Sugar Camp, Wis., have agreed to pay $100,000 in restitution as part of a plea deal in federal court in Madison on Wednesday, according to Madison.com
. They also can't hunt, fish or trap game for five years.
Prosecutors said the Sowinskis created and placed the bait piles, which contained the pesticide Carbofuran, around their property to kill predators like coyotes and gray wolves. The piles, according to prosecutors, killed one bald eagle, 21 crows and ravens, four coyotes, one hawk, two songbirds, and one weasel.
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According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
, a video camera set up by authorities caught Paul Sowinski, accompanied by a son and teenage nephew, finding a dead eagle while driving an ATV. Paul Sowinski first tossed the eagle into the brush and then later into a burn pile.
"This is a disturbing case involving the reckless poisoning of wild birds and animals," Todd Schaller, chief warden of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources told Madison.com. "To place poisoned baits out into the environment, lethally threatening any and all wildlife in the area, is not only illegal, it is unconscionable and not something the citizens of this state will tolerate."
Greg Sowinski, president of Sowinski Farms, told the Journal Sentinel in a statement that the company "deeply regrets the impacts to animals caused by the unauthorized acts and have taken proactive steps to reinforce safe and appropriate practices."
The company also confirmed to the newspaper that Alvin Sowinski, who acknowledged primary responsibility for bait piles, no longer serves as an officer with the farm.
Greg Sowinski told the Journal Sentinel that at "no time was the safety of Sowinski Farms' cropland or products affected in any way."
Madison.com reported that U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen Crocker has scheduled guilty plea hearings for Alvin and Paul Sowinski on May 8.
"The criminal actions of these two defendants — poisoning the land, killing bald eagles and numerous other animals and birds — simply for their own selfish reasons, attack the very core of what this state stands for," said U.S. attorney John Vaudreuil in a news release.
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