Falconers from Michigan and Wisconsin pled guilty on Dec. 30, 2019 in U.S. District Court in Madison for conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act — which makes it unlawful to transport, sell, receive, acquire, or purchase illegally captured wildlife — according to a press release from the Department of Justice.
According to the court complaint, in May of 2017, 64-year-old Edward Taylor, of Fruitport, Mich., conspired with James Kitzman, a 69-year old Wisconsin falconer from Oak Creek, to obtain a female northern goshawk nestling Kitzman illegally captured from state land in Vilas County.
The goshawk nestling was captured from a Vilas County nest on May 26, 2017, according to the complaint. The next day Taylor drove from Michigan to Kitzman’s home in Oak Creek, Wisc., and then took possession of the goshawk, it was reported.
According to the complaint, Kitzman had violated the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) in various ways during the capture process. He failed to band or mark the goshawk nestling immediately after it was captured in Vilas County, and he also failed to report the capture and file the appropriate paperwork with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Such failures made any subsequent transactions with that goshawk illegal and in violation of the Lacey Act.
The wild goshawk was given to Taylor as trade for a captive-bred Finnish goshawk that he had previously provided Kitzman, the court report states.
According to the MBTA, no raptor captured in the wild can be purchased, sold, or bartered for.
The MBTA and federal regulations, under strict guidelines, do allow permitted falconers to take raptors, like goshawks, from the wild and train them to hunt small game, however, raptors can only be given to other permitted falconers as gifts.
Taylor, a master falconer licensed in Michigan, covered up the transaction by misrepresenting information in the paperwork he filed with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), the criminal complaint states. In that paperwork he indicated he had captured the goshawk nestling in Vilas County and that he had immediately banded the bird.
According to the Department of Justice press release, Kitzman also covered up the transaction with false reports given to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR).
The press release also reported Kitzman told Taylor to use a cover story if ever asked by authorities how the northern goshawk was taken.
As part of the plea agreement, Kitzman has agreed to pay $15,000 to the Lacey Act Reward Fund and forfeit the Toyota Tacoma pickup truk he used to transport the goshawk from Vilas County.
Taylor will be sentenced in February and Kitzman will be sentenced in March. The charges carry a maximum penalty of one year imprisonment and a $100,000 fine.
The charges against Kitzman and Taylor were the result of an investigation conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the WDNR Bureau of Law Enforcement and the MDNR.
Jacob Friede may be reached at [email protected] or [email protected].