Plea Deals Reached in Oneida Co. Wildlife Poisoning Case

By: WSAW Staff Email
By: WSAW Staff Email

Two Oneida County man have reached plea deal in federal court on accusations they fatally poisoned two eagles, along with other wild animals.

Alvin Sowinski, 65, and his son Paul Sowinski, 46, are charged with the illegal possession of American bald eagles.

The charges stem from the use of a pesticide, Carbofuran, to kill wildlife on the Sowinski property in Sugar Camp. The use of the chemical killed several species of animals between May 2007 and March 2010, including at least two American bald eagles.

The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act provides criminal penalties for the possession or taking of the American bald eagle.

In May 2007, a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Warden initiated an investigation into potential poisoning of animals on property owned by Sowinski Real Estate LLC. The DNR warden found dead a bald eagle, a crow, a gray squirrel, and a bobcat, within 100 yards of a deer carcass that the warden suspected to contain a poisonous substance. The deer carcass was tested by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Forensic Laboratory and found to contain the insecticide Carbofuran. The bald eagle, crow, gray squirrel, and bobcat were also tested by the lab and lab personnel concluded that the animals died as a result of ingesting Carbofuran.

In the winter of 2010 and continuing through April 13, 2010, Alvin Sowinski placed several bait sites on the Sowinski property near his homestead for the purpose of killing predators, such as fishers, bobcats, coyotes, and gray timber wolves. Law enforcement personnel found at least nine bait sites on the Sowinski property during this time period. These bait sites contained the remains of beavers and white-tailed deer, and processed meats. One of the bait sites found by law enforcement contained antifreeze in a coffee container.

According to the affidavit, Paul Sowinski was aware that his father was placing poison bait sites on the Sowinski property in 2010, but was not aware what chemical Alvin was using to mix with the bait material. In 2009, Paul Sowinski found two dead eagles near his deer stand and threw them in the woods. Two eagles were later recovered by law enforcement. He also admitted that he found another bald eagle, which had been placed on the property by law enforcement as part of its investigation, and burned it in a brush pile because he did not want authorities to find it, and he did not want anyone to get into trouble.

On May 12, 2010, federal search warrants were executed by law enforcement from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Oneida County Sheriff’s Department, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, on seven different locations on the Sowinski property in Sugar Camp, looking for evidence of wildlife poisoning on the property. Law enforcement located the following additional animals that died on or near bait sites on the Sowinski property: one bald eagle, 21 crows and ravens, four coyotes, one hawk, two songbirds, one weasel and two small unidentified mammals. Several other dead animals were found in another area, but where bait materials were not in the immediate vicinity: two bald eagles, a black bear, two ravens, and a coyote. The animals seized during execution of the search warrants were not tested in the lab, but the circumstances surrounding their deaths and location is similar to those animals found by law enforcement earlier in 2010 which tested positive for Carbofuran poisoning.

United States Attorney Vaudreuil stated, “Wisconsin is a special place to live, in large part because of our clean environment and our wildlife. The criminal actions of these two defendants--poisoning the land, killing bald eagles and numerous other animals and birds--simply for their own selfish reasons, attack the very core of what this state stands for. Investigating and prosecuting this type of conduct is, and will always be, a high priority for this office and the U.S. Department of Justice.”

A sentencing date has been scheduled for May 8. The defendants each face a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine.

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