BILLINGS – A Montana man has been fined $1,000 fine and ordered to pay $1,000 in restitution after he illegally killed a bald eagle through a poisoned calf carcass near Plevna.
Prosecutors say Dale Duwayne Buerkle injected a calf carcass with a pesticide in an attempt to kill coyotes that were attacking his calves last year. The poison also killed three coyotes and a hawk.
On March 20, 2016, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Warden Zach Phillips was notified by a man that his son had found a dead eagle on their property. FWP biologist Melissa Foster retrieved the eagle carcass on March 21 and secured it in an FWP freezer.
On March 31, Phillips located and retrieved three coyote carcasses from the same property. Phillips noticed that just across the property line fence on Buerkle’s land there was a calf carcass about 20 yards from where one of the carcasses was found. Phillips sent the coyote and eagle carcasses to the wildlife lab in Bozeman.
On April 12, Phillips received a report that a dead hawk was found in the same pasture where the dead coyotes were recovered. An FWP biologist recovered the hawk.
On April 28, toxicology results showed that each of the coyote carcasses and the bald eagle carcass tested positive for carbofuran, a carbamate pesticide. The cause of death of the bald eagle was determined to be poisoning by carbofuran.
On May 2, officials interviewed the man on whose property the eagle carcass was found. He denied using carbofuran and agreed to take the agents to the area of his ranch where the calf carcass was found. The remains of the calf carcass were still there near a large pile of dead bugs about 10 feet across the property line in a pasture owned by Buerkle.
The remains of the calf carcass were taken as well as a sample of the dead bugs and a sample of the soil. All three tested positive for carbofuran.
That same day, officials interviewed Buerkle, who admitted that he injected carbofuran into the stomach of two calves. He admitted he knew that using the carbofuran was not legal but said he had no clue that it killed birds. He admitted that he knew the poison was not selective.
On May 10, officials transferred the calf carcass, hawk carcass, insect samples, soil samples, and a sample from the poison retrieved Buerkle to the National Fish Wildlife Forensic Lab.
The results were received on June 22 and showed that all samples tested positive for carbamate carbofuran.
Buerkle was charged with unlawful taking of a bald eagle, unlawful taking of a migratory bird, and unlawful use of a registered pesticide.
In a plea agreement, Buerkle admitted guilt to the first charge in exchange for the other two charges to be dropped.
He was fined $1,000 and ordered to pay $1,000 in restitution, he will be on probation for one year.
MTN’s David Sherman