Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Trucker’s decision to phone for help in bald eagle rescue was the right call

A trucker in upstate New York is being hailed for his role in helping to rescue an injured bald eagle on a highway.

Mario Giorbano was driving along Route 17 in Sullivan County on Tuesday, June 9, when he spotted the eagle sitting in a roadside ditch, according to a report from The Associated Press. Giorbano stopped his truck and, after discovering the bird was injured, called 911 to alert state police. The AP report states that troopers stayed with the bird until a licensed wildlife rehabilitator arrived at the scene and took the bird for X-rays and possible treatment.

Giorbano did the right thing by calling for professional help (although ideally it probably would’ve been better if he’d been able to call a local wildlife rescue group first, instead of the police) because there are several laws in place that are designed to protect our national symbols. Those penalties could’ve had stiff consequences for even a Good Samaritan like Giordano. Unless you’re legally permitted to do so, even possessing so much as an eagle feather can put you on the wrong side of the law.

While both bald and golden eagles are no longer listed under the Endangered Species Act, there are still federal laws in place that prohibit taking, possessing, selling, purchasing or even bartering any part of the birds, their nests and their eggs, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

A 1972 amendment to the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act actually increased civil penalties for doing so, with a maximum fine of $5,000 or one year imprisonment for first offenders. Eagles and in fact all migratory birds are also protected under federal law that prohibits taking, killing, possessing, importing or even transporting migratory birds. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act has even stiffer penalties for violators, including a maximum of two years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000.  

There’s also the Lacey Act, which passed in 1900, and protects bald eagles by making it a federal offense to take, possess, transport, sell, import, or export their nests, eggs and parts that are taken in violation of any state, tribal or U.S. law. The Lacey Act also prohibits false records, labels or identification of wildlife shipped; prohibits importation of injurious species; and prohibits shipment of fish or wildlife in an inhumane manner. Penalties include a maximum of five years and $250,000 fine for felony convictions and a maximum $10,000 fine for civil violations and $250 for marking violations.

You can learn more about federal laws protecting bald eagles here