Four face charges in sales of feathers
Poaching - A man is accused in Oregon of trading in eagle and other raptor feathers
Friday, March 13, 2009
The Oregonian Staff
Federal authorities have charged one man in Oregon and three in Washington in killing birds of prey -- including America's most enduring symbol, the bald eagle -- to feed the black market for raptor feathers.
Some of the birds were lured with wild mustangs killed for that purpose.
( I wonder do they know that killing wild horses on govt land is also against the law, with fines up to $100,000 per head.)
The suspects, three of whom reportedly lived on the Yakama Indian Reservation, were accused Thursday in criminal complaints of selling federally protected wildlife in 2007 and 2008 to undercover federal agents.
Feathers of the migratory birds hold special significance to Native Americans and are often used in dances and tribal ceremonies. For that reason they have become currency in a thriving black market, especially to those who take part in lucrative dance competitions.
The dancers are judged in part on the quality of their regalia, and many competitions reward regalia constructed from eagle feathers, according to court documents. The feathers of young golden eagles, whose tails are made up of white feathers with black tips, commonly known as black and whites, are among the most sought after.
The demand for these feathers has spawned a network of eagle poachers and traders, according to federal court documents.
While it is lawful for enrolled tribal members with permits to possess eagle feathers, it is against the law to kill eagles or buy or sell their parts, according to Joan Jewett, a spokeswoman for the Pacific region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The agency collects eagles that die naturally or by accident to supply tribes with eagle parts for religious use.
In July 2007, an undercover agent assigned to the Fish and Wildlife Service, attended the Julyamsh Powwow in Post Falls, Idaho, where he found a man hawking fans of bird feathers. The agent paid the man $450 for three fans.
According to an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Portland, the man gave his name, J. J. Lonelodge, and gave the agent a cell phone number.
"I can hook you up with anything you want," the man said. Court documents now identify the man, a tribally enrolled Kiowa, as Reginald Dale Akeen, of Anadarko, Okla.
Federal agents, still undercover, made a series of phone calls to Akeen to buy feathers of golden eagles and other birds. The National Wildlife Forensics Laboratory in Ashland confirmed that the feathers purchased from Akeen belonged to golden eagles, anhinga, and a Cooper's hawk.
In September 2007, according to federal authorities, Akeen brokered the sale of a "black and white" fan on the Warm Springs Reservation.
Early last year, authorities began to make buys with at least three residents of the Yakama Indian Reservation.
Ricky Sam Wahchumwah, William Wahsise and Alfred Lawrence Hawk Jr., are accused of selling feathers of golden eagles, bald eagles, red-tail hawks, northern harrier hawks and red-shafted flickers.
Special Agent Robert Romero, of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, paid a visit to Hawk last March 21 at his home in White Swan, Wash. He was posing as a buyer of raptor feathers, and -- unknown to Hawk -- he was wired for sound and video, according to federal affidavits that accompanied criminal complaints against the suspects.
Hawk directed the agent to a storage shed and opened a large ice chest that contained the heads, wings and claws of five bald eagles. He later pulled out plastic bags that held the tailfeathers of golden eagles and a shoebox that held the tails of rough-legged hawks and northern harriers, according to the affidavit.
The agent paid $2,720 for various feathers and wings of golden and bald eagles, red-shafted flickers and rough-legged hawks.
"Hawk Jr. said that he and his nephews got up early that morning to go out hunting eagles," wrote Special Agent Charles W. Roberts of the Fish and Wildlife Service, who signed the affidavit. "Hawk Jr. went on to say that they went out to sit on some 'shooters' . . . and eventually killed three eagles."
Shooters, according to the affidavit, were wild horses deliberately killed to bait and attract eagles and raptors.
Bryan Denson: 503-294-7614 bryandenson@...