Man pleads guilty to killing bald eagle because it was a ‘menace’

A man from Smithfield, Virginia, pleaded guilty Tuesday to allegations that he killed a bald eagle on March 13.

According to court documents, Allen Thacker, 62, killed the bald eagle by first shooting it, then running it over with an all-terrain vehicle.

Thacker, who said he was upset because the bird was eating the fish out of a pond on his property, told investigators he first fired a warning shot to scare aware the bird, but it didn’t work. After that, according to Thacker, he shot the eagle with a .22-caliber rifle then used a pistol to “finish the eagle off.” Thacker initially denied running over the bird with an ATV.

However, a witness account, as well as a necropsy performed on the bird, prove otherwise.

The unnamed witness told authorities that she saw a man on a red ATV driving around in circles as he ran over what appeared to be a bald eagle at least three to four times. Then, the witness said, the suspect dragged the bird into a nearby wooded area.

Authorities learned that Thacker owned a red ATV like the one described by the witness. Thacker later took authorities to the wooded area, where the deceased eagle was found.

According to the necropsy report, the eagle was a healthy adult male whose cause of death was blunt force trauma that resulted in a fractured skull and hemorrhage. The medical examiner found fragments from .22-caliber ammunition, but there was no evidence that the bird was shot with anything other than a .22, despite Thacker’s claim. The medical examiner also noted that the injuries from the .22-caliber would not have been fatal for the bird.

Following the facts presented to the court, Thacker finally admitted to both shooting the bald eagle and running it over with the ATV.

Authorities seized the .22-caliber rifle, as well as a .357, despite the lack of evidence that it was used in the crime.

During an interview with Fish and Wildlife Service agents, Thacker said he believed “too much emphasis is placed on bald eagle protection because the birds are a menace.”

Thacker faces one year in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.