Man fined for shooting bald eagle

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Gallion resident Shane Lewis, 28, was recently convicted in U.S. federal Court for the Oct. 2005 killing of a bald eagle.

Lewis, who fired on the eagle as it flew by a Greene County catfish farm with a .22 rifle, was ordered to pay a $500 fine and a $50 assessment for the offense.

While he was pleased to get the conviction, Conservation Officer Dwight Thrasher-who investigated the case-said he felt the fine was “very light.”

Email newsletter signup

Thrasher felt the nature of the crime should have brought stiffer penalties.

“I guess he was just shooting it just to be shooting something,” Thrasher said.

According to a release from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, authorities first became aware of the situation when they were contacted by one of Lewis’s co-workers. James Summerville, of Eutaw, claimed he was with Lewis when he shot the eagle. Summerville then led authorities to the remains of the eagle, which were buried near the farm.

Once the remains were recovered, Thrasher joined forces with Special Agent Gary Phillips of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to conduct an investigation.

Both interviewed Lewis, who admitted to the shooting. Thrasher said Lewis told them he thought the eagle was a buzzard. However, this proved to be a weak defense since they are also a protected species.

Bald eagles are very rare in Alabama and are protected under state law by the Alabama Non-game Species Regulation and under federal law by the Bald Eagle Protection Act.

Widespread restoration efforts have been underway, Thrasher said, by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to increase bald eagle populations and have them nest in the state.

When the program began in 1984, bald eagles had not nested in Alabama since 1949. The first confirmed nest was spotted in 1987 and today, state wildlife biologists are monitoring over 60 nests across the state.