MADISON (WAOW) - Two northern Wisconsin farmers pleaded guilty Wednesday to federal charges of illegal possession of American bald eagles following a probe that began in 2007 into the deaths of dozens of wildlife from poisoning, prosecutors said.
The poisoning used baits designed to kill predators in order to improve deer hunting, U.S. Attorney John Vaudreuil has said.
Alvin Sowinski, 65, and his son Paul Sowinski, 46, of the Town of Sugar Camp in Oneida County were each convicted of one misdemeanor count in U.S. District Court. Judge William Conley will sentence them separately Aug. 4, a court official said..
According to a plea agreement reached in the case, the pair will pay $100,000 in restitution and lose all rights and privileges to hunt, fish and trap for at least five years, Vaudreuil has said.
According to Vaudreuil, the Sowinski family owns about 8,000 acres in Oneida County, including 4,000 used for farming, mostly potatoes.
The probe into dead wildlife on the property began in May 2007, when a state Department of Natural Resources warden found a dead bald eagle, a crow, a gray squirrel and a bobcat within 100 yards of a deer carcass laced with the deadly insecticide Carbofuran, prosecutors said.
In early 2010, investigators found at least nine bait sites on the property with remains of beavers, whitetail deer and processed meats that were tainted with Carbofuran as a way to kill predators such as fishers, bobcats, coyotes and gray timber wolves, Vaudreuil said.
A search of the property in May 2010 found nearly 40 dead birds or animals, including two bald eagles, a black bear and a coyote, the prosecutor said.
After the father and son were charged in February, the president of Sowinski Farms, Greg Sowinski, issued a statement saying the man primarily responsible for the poisoning of the eagles was no longer an officer with the company.