A Winlock woman has been fined $1,500 for violating the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act after inadvertently poisoning seven bald eagles that fed on two euthanized horse caracasses left on her property in March.
Debra Dwelly, who runs a horse rescue farm, said she had intended to bury the two horses but a backhoe had broken down.
Dwelly said she was “mortified” by the development and intended to work with wildlife officials.
Gary Young, special agent in charge for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Pacific Region, said that, considering the circumstances, the case had a positive ending since all seven birds were all able to be released back into the wild.
“We were notified in a timely manner, had the resources and (the eagles) were all saved,” Young said. “Normally, we don’t hear about things until the birds are dead.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service closed its investigation this fall and sent the findings to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which set the $1,500 fine.
Poisoning a bald eagle, even inadvertently, is a violation of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act with maximum penalties up to one year in prison and $200,000 in fines, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Six of the eagles — five juveniles and one adult — were transported to West Sound Wildlife Shelter on Bainbridge Island where they made a full recovery.
The other juvenile bird was taken to the Audubon Society of Portland.
Mike Pratt, West Sound Wildlife Shelter director, said the eagles came in vomiting with convulsions. Some were unconscious due to consuming the potent drug Euthasol used to euthanize the two horses.
Winlock resident Sharon Thomas and her neighbor, Darlene Osborne, first noticed one of the birds flopping around in the field by their property on Harkins Road.
The neighbors found another juvenile eagle and four more birds in the next two days.
“They were drunk,” Thomas told The Chronicle. “They were not in their natural state.”
Thomas and her neighbors brought the sick birds to Raindancer Wild Bird Rescue in Olympia where they were evaluated and sent to Bainbridge Island for further treatment.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service field agent Steve Furrer flew in a small plane over the field when he found the first horse carcass. The second horse carcass was found simultaneously by a neighbor of Thomas’.
“We had the resources, a pilot and a plane.” Young, who has worked for USFWS for more than 20 years, said. “In my experience, I have not seen seen that fast of a response. There were cases where sick birds were found but not to this scale.”
More than 75 people gathered in a field near Harkins Road in March to witness the six eagles, treated at the Bainbridge shelter, return to the wild. Those on-hand, including members of the Cowlitz and Hopi Indian tribes, said the event was an uplifting experience.
Pat Rogers, assistant special agent in charge for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Pacific Region, said the department was amazed by the outcome of the poisoning.
“It was a really amazing story,” Roger said. “It’s amazing that it all lived.”
Attempts by The Chronicle and The Daily News to reach Dwelly were unsuccessful.
(c)2013 The Chronicle (Centralia, Wash.). Visit The Chronicle (Centralia, Wash.) at www.chronline.com. Distributed by MCT Information Services.