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Bald eagle shooter gets plea deal, misdemeanor, fine



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June 15, 2011 - By David Fleet

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James Nelson, 65, pleaded guilty to the reckless use of a firearm, a misdemeanor punishable with a $100 fine last week, for allegedly shooting a 5-year-old bald eagle with a 12-gauge shotgun. The case was before 67th District Judge John Conover in Davison.

On Feb. 14, a law enforcement investigation by the MDNR led them to Nelson after an injured bald eagle was reported in woods near Gaines Township west of Groveland Township. DNR officials and volunteers captured the eagle and determined the bird had suffered from gunshot wounds. The eagle has since recovered from his wounds and is expected to be released in the near future.

Mark Papineau, Michigan Department of Conservation officer from Genesee County said Nelson admitted to shooting hawks and even an owl that may have been pestering some of his chickens.

"Those birds are protected, too," he said following the plea. "Nelson never really admitted to shooting the eagle at that location, he claims he was shooting at a hawk."

Papineau said Nelson, a Navy veteran who is confined to a wheelchair and has poor vision, also lost the use of the shotgun he allegedly used to shoot the eagle.

"He has about 20 chickens that are let out of the coop each day," he said. "We had a strong case against him. But he's living on a limited income and I think he's learned his lesson."

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