Two men in Montana have been charged with murdering over 3,600 birds, including bald and golden eagles, and selling them on the black market.
According to a federal indictment filed in US District Court in Montana on December 7, Simon Paul and Travis John Branson were both charged with conspiracy, unlawful trafficking of bald and golden eagles, and violating the Lacey Act.
According to the US Department of Agriculture, the Lacey Act, first adopted in 1900, combats the trafficking of unlawfully acquired wildlife, fish, or plants.
CNN has not been able to determine whether Paul and Branson have legal counsel at this time.
They are accused of conspiring to “illegally kill, transport, offer for sale, and sell bald and golden eagles” on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Western Montana between January 2015 and March 2021.
According to the indictment, Branson flew from Washington to Montana to shoot the birds, and Paul, who lived on the Flathead Indian Reservation, was identified as a “shooter” and “shipper” for Branson.
The indictment further mentioned that Branson informed purchasers he was “on a killing spree” hunting eagle tail feathers for future sales, and among the items sold was a golden eagle tail set delivered to a buyer in Texas.
The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act forbids anybody from “taking” bald or golden eagles or their parts, including feathers, without a permit.
According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the bald eagle is no longer on the endangered species list, with a population estimated at 316,700 as of 2019.
“The bald eagle is not merely a bird of biological interest, but this country’s national symbol, which reflects America’s ideals of freedom,” according to the complaint.
Paul and Branson are scheduled to appear in court for the first time on January 8.