On Warm Springs Reservation

A former Madras man has been sentenced to probation in federal court for killing six eagles in 2009.

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Thomas V. AdamsThomas Valentino Adams, 41, who now lives in Texas, was sentenced Nov. 7, by Judge Michael Mosman of the U.S. District Court in Portland, to one year of supervised probation.

Adams, a Native American, pleaded guilty July 25 to taking, possessing and transporting bald eagles, a Class A misdemeanor.

According to Craig Gabriel, assistant U.S. attorney, on Jan. 24, 2009, an eyewitness saw Adams and another individual driving on "the Island" area of the Warm Springs Reservation, staring up into the trees and apparently hunting for eagles. The defendant's companion was carrying a .17 caliber rifle.

The witness reported the incident to the tribal biologist, who contacted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and tribal police. Tribal police went to the area to investigate, and saw evidence of eagle hunting, including fresh blood, the impression of a large wing in the newly fallen snow, and tire tracks.

The officer returned a few days later to continue the investigation and recovered a .17 caliber shell casing, and subsequently encountered the defendant, who was alone, a few hundred feet away, firing a .17 caliber rifle.

Even though there were feathers near his truck, Adams claimed that he was just shooting at a tree, Gabriel said, and he was cited for trespassing.

Based on that evidence, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife agent obtained a search warrant for Adams' home in Madras, which they executed on Feb. 20, 2009.

"The search yielded blood and feathers of multiple eagle carcasses," said Gabriel, noting that the blood and feathers were in various places in the home. "The defendant denied ever having killed eagles and claimed the blood in his house was from a goose, but DNA analysis performed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service confirmed that the blood was from three different bald eagles and three different golden eagles."

"The U.S. Department of Justice has developed policies to allow Native Americans to lawfully possess eagle feathers for ceremonial purposes, but the defendant blatantly violated this policy by killing eagles, which is prohibited under federal law," said Gabriel.

Evidence was seized and forfeited to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the judge imposed a fine of $250.

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