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
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
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
"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
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.
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