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TRAPPER INVESTIGATED IN EAGLE DEATH

THURSDAY February 26, 2004

By Brett Prettyman

The Salt Lake Tribune

A southern Utah trapper employed by the federal government is being investigated for allegedly trapping and killing a golden eagle in the Henry Mountains last October.

Phillip A. Taylor, of Bicknell, is still employed part-time by Wildlife Services, a federal predator control agency under the U.S.

Department of Agriculture, but he faces possible disciplinary action once his case is tried, according to Mike Bodenchuk, director of Wildlife Services in Utah.

Taylor has not been charged with any crime, but the case has been presented to the U.S. Attorney's Office for possible violations of both the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Acts and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) officials executed a search warrant at Taylor's home in December.

Bodenchuk said he cannot comment on a pending legal case, but confirmed his agency has done its own internal investigation and "that something is not right."

When reached by phone Wednesday, Taylor declined to discuss the matter.

There are 34 trappers employed by Wildlife Services in Utah, according to Bodenchuk. The agency is charged with protecting livestock and native wildlife from predators.

The investigation began after eight teenagers and a leader from the Aspen Achievement Academy, out of Loa, got a closer-than-expected look at a golden eagle during a hike last fall.

"One of my students said she saw a really big bird on the ground behind a tree," said Erin Bohm, a senior field instructor for the academy, which serves at-risk teenagers in a wilderness therapy program.

"We came around the tree and saw a carcass of an animal in a trap and a big golden eagle stuck in a length of chain. It would try to take off, hit the end of the length of the chain and fall. The girls were very upset. It was a pretty traumatic thing to see."

After receiving Bohm's report of the incident, a DWR conservation officer went to the scene on Oct. 28, 2003.

Officer Brian Shearer found a dead red fox, brown feathers with gold highlights and a small pool of blood.

He also observed government-issued signs warning pet owners that there were traps in the area, according to an affidavit for a search warrant filed in the 6th District Court in Garfield County.

Shearer took pictures of footprints, truck and all-terrain vehicle tire tracks and collected other evidence from the scene.

He returned to the area on Nov. 8 and visited a canyon one mile east of the site where he found the feathers and blood.

Similar footprints and tire tracks were found, along with the warning signs and two leg-hold traps with the words "Property of U.S." stamped on the bottom.

After checking the tires of the truck driven by the state trapper who worked that area, officials decided to seek a search warrant of Taylor's home in Bicknell.

Taylor might have escaped an investigation had he reported the incident when it happened.

Accidental killing or trapping of eagles needs to be reported within 72 hours to the Migratory Bird Permit Office in Denver.

Bodenchuk said trappers often face tough decisions about whether animals accidentally caught in traps are healthy enough to release, should be brought in for rehabilitation or euthanized.

bpretty@sltrib.com
Copyright 2004, The Salt Lake Tribune.
All material found on Utah Online is copyrighted The Salt Lake Tribune and associated news services. No material may be reproduced or reused without explicit permission from The Salt Lake Tribune.


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