Federal Charges Filed Against Two Men Accused of ‘Killing Spree’ Targeting 3,600 Birds, Including Bald Eagles

Missoula, Montana – December 14, 2023

Federal Charges Filed Against Two Men Accused of 'Killing Spree' Targeting 3,600 Birds,

Federal prosecutors in Montana have brought charges against two individuals for allegedly engaging in a ‘killing spree’ that claimed the lives of 3,600 birds, including majestic bald eagles. Simon Paul and Travis John Branson are now facing legal consequences for their alleged actions, with court documents filed in Missoula on Dec. 7 shedding light on the extensive violations.

The charges assert that the accused carried out these acts on the Flathead Indian Reservation in western Montana and various other locations. The killing of bald and golden eagles constitutes a clear breach of the “Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act,” a federal legislation established to protect these emblematic bird species.

According to the indictment, Paul and Branson engaged in the illegal shooting of the birds and subsequently sold either parts or entire eagles on the black market. This illicit operation allegedly spanned from January 2015 to March 2021.

The charges brought against them include violating the Lacey Act, a comprehensive law prohibiting the trafficking of wildlife, fish, or plants acquired through illegal means. Furthermore, the duo is facing 13 counts related to the trafficking of bald and golden eagles, along with an additional charge of conspiracy.

The prosecutors presented evidence that paints a disturbing picture of the defendant’s actions. In December 2020, Branson reportedly sent a text containing an image of a Golden Eagle tail to a buyer, receiving a PayPal payment on the same day. Subsequently, he shipped the eagle tail to Texas, securing another PayPal payment shortly afterward.

The indictment alleges that Paul and Branson utilized a deceased deer as bait to attract eagles, enabling them to carry out the shootings. Furthermore, Branson is accused of boasting about committing felonies and going on a ‘killing spree,’ highlighting the significant financial gains they allegedly made from the illegal sale of the birds.

Even though the Bald Eagle was removed from the endangered species list in 2007 because of population recovery, it continues to be safeguarded as a species under the “Bald Eagle Protection Act.”The law, passed in 1940, criminalizes the ‘taking’ of any part of a bald eagle, which includes killing them.

Paul and Branson are expected to face their arraignment in court in January, where the gravity of their alleged crimes will be further examined, and justice sought for the lives of the birds unlawfully taken in this appalling incident.

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