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Warrant issued for eagle shooter



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The bald eagle after being shot. (click for larger version)
March 16, 2011 - A 65-year-old man will be charged with shooting an endangered species and reckless discharge of a firearm in connection with a wounded bald eagle near his home in the area of Van Vleet and Ray roads in Genesee County, just west of Groveland Township.

A law enforcement investigation by the DNR led them to James Allen Nelson. Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton authorized the two misdemeanor counts against him.

A warrant was issued on March 11 after several tips from local media led law enforcement to Nelson's rural home. He will appear in 67th District Court before Judge John Conover on April 4.

Conservation Officer Mark Papinaue investigated the shooting and spoke with The Citizen just after an interview with Nelson.

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"Nelson did make a partial confession," said Papinaue. "The investigation included using shotgun BBs recovered from the eagle and matching them to Nelson's shotgun."

Julie Oakes, senior wildlife biologist for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, who was part of a team that responded on Feb. 14 to the remote rural area after a call requesting help for the injured eagle. The eagle was found near Ray Road in Gaines Township, about 20 miles west of the village of Holly—just a few miles from Seven Lakes State Park and Holly Recreation Area.

The 5-year-old male bald eagle, which was shot in the wing but now is recovering. The eagle was taken to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.

John Potbury, Genesee County special assistant prosecuting attorney said he could receive 90 days in jail if convicted.

"Everyone is sensitive about the case because a bald eagle was shot," said Potbury. "But keep in mind the suspect will be charged as though it's any endangered species. We may expect a trial by the end of April if the suspect does not take a deal."

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