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Farmer may face federal prison after accidentally killing bald eagles with contaminated meat

A Niagara County produce farmer faces up to a year in federal prison and a $100,000 fine for inadvertently killing three juvenile bald eagles on his farm, federal authorities reported Friday.

Kirk Canfield, 54, of Wilson, admitted to violating the federal Bald and Gold Eagle Protection Act when he mixed an insecticide – Golden Malrin fly bait – in a pile of meat last August in an attempt to kill coyotes on his farm, according to U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr.

In a statement, Hochul said Canfield put the tainted meat supply at the edge of a cornfield on his farm but it was consumed by three bald eagles, which died. The eagles were photographed last Aug. 22 by an ATV rider who discovered their carcasses “in the immediate vicinity of the contaminated meat pile,” authorities reported.

Canfield carted away the bodies of the eagles and the meat pile sometime later, according to federal officials.

“By placing the contaminated meat pile on his field, the defendant acted with wanton disregard for the consequences of his act,” according to a statement by Hochul’s office.

The bald eagle, which was adopted as the national symbol of the United States in 1782, was listed as endangered in 43 of the 48 contiguous states in 1978 and threatened in the five others – Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The now-banned insecticide DDT was suspected of harming bald eagle eggs, which scientists believe resulted in their disappearance.

When the number of bald eagle nesting pairs began approaching 10,000 in the lower 48 states in 2007, the species was delisted from protection under the federal Endangered Species Act. It remains, however, a federally protected species under the Bald and Gold Eagle Protection Act.

That law was first enacted in 1940 and “prohibits anyone, without a permit issued by the Secretary of the Interior, from ‘taking’ bald eagles, including their parts, nests or eggs,” a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service statement reported.

The species has experienced a resurgence in Buffalo Niagara, with documented bald eagle nests in several spots along the Niagara River, as well as along the lakes Erie and Ontario shorelines.

Special agents from the Fish & Wildlife Service and state DEC officers investigated the case against Canfield, which led to his plea in federal court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Hugh B. Scott.

Sentencing is scheduled for 10 a.m., Oct. 2.