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Bald eagles poisoned to improve pheasant hunting

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At least two bald eagles, along with dozens of other wildlife, were poisoned by two potato farmers in northern Wisconsin, news agencies reported Thursday. Alvin C. Sowinski and son, Paul A. Sowinski, set numerous poisoned bait traps to kill predators in an attempt to improve pheasant hunting on their land for family and friends.

Among other species killed were at least one bobcat and three ermine. Bait traps were set laced with the particularly toxic pesticide, carbofuran, which was mostly banned by the EPA in its granular form in 1994. Carbofuran is so toxic that it can kill small birds and mammals simply by coming into contact with it.

The species targeted were large mammals like coyotes and gray wolves, the latter of which were federally protected at the time of the investigation. But carbofuran is an indiscriminate killer, and has a long life in the food chain. Small birds or mammals that ingest carbofuran and die can then kill larger scavenger species that ingest the poisoned carrion. Although fish make up a large portion of a bald eagle’s diet, they also depend on carrion to meet their nutritional needs.

Carbofuran can also leach into ground water supplies and poison our drinking water. Humans who ingest high levels of carbofuran can develop blood disorders or sustain damage to their nervous and reproductive systems.

The Sowinskis’ sentencing will be in May. They face fines of up to $100,000 each and prison time of up to one year.