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Poisoned eagle, bobcat and bear documented by investigators. Photo by USFWS.

Poisoned eagle, bobcat and bear documented by investigators. Photo by USFWS.

Wildlife Poisoning Case Closes in Wisconsin

On August 4, 2014, John W. Vaudreuil, United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, announced that Alvin C. Sowinski, 78, and his son Paul A. Sowinski, 46, both of Rhinelander, Wisconsin, were sentenced by U.S. District Judge James D. Peterson for conduct relating to the possession of an American bald eagle.
Alvin Sowinski received a $30,000 fine, a seven-year ban on his hunting, fishing and trapping privileges, $100,000 in restitution, and one year of probation and four months of home confinement. Paul Sowinski received a $10,000 fine, a five-year ban on his hunting, fishing and trapping privileges, $100,000 in restitution, and one year of probation. Both men pleaded guilty to the charge on May 14, 2014.
Alvin and Paul Sowinski, father and son, live in Oneida County, where the family owns some 8,000 acres, which include farm fields as well as prime habitat for both wildlife and hunting. The elder Sowinski baited multiple sites on the property with wildlife carcasses or processed meats treated with Carbofuran, hoping to attract and kill bobcats, coyotes, wolves, fishers and other species that prey on the deer and game birds that he and his son routinely hunted on their land.

During the first four months of 2010, Federal and State officers documented Sowinski’s placement of poison-laced bait at least nine sites and the nearby deaths of 24 federally protected migratory birds and other species. Investigators also found the remains of two bald eagles and a rough-legged hawk on another part of the property near the location of a deer stand used the previous winter by Paul Sowinski. Tests conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Wildlife Forensics laboratory confirmed that many of the animals recovered by investigators had died from ingesting Carbofuran.

The execution of Federal search warrants in May 2010 yielded more evidence of wildlife poisoning. Carcasses recovered from seven different sites on the Sowinski property included those of three additional bald eagles.

Paul Sowinski admitted knowing that his father was setting out poisoned bait but was not aware of the chemical being used. He told investigators that he had found and discarded the two eagles that were recovered near his deer stand in 2010 and acknowledged that he destroyed a third carcass to conceal it from authorities.

Law enforcement officers first became aware of potential poisoning of wildlife on the Sowinski property in the spring of 2007 when a State warden recovered a dead eagle and three other animals within 100 yards of a deer carcass. Both the wildlife and deer tested positive for Carbofuran.  

United States Attorney Vaudreuil stated, “This sentence is both correct and just. The message to these two defendants and others should be very clear:  wildlife in Wisconsin is for all of us to treasure, and indiscriminate, illegal killing will not be tolerated.”
“The closure of this complex and lengthy case is the result of the teamwork and working relationships between several law enforcement agencies, including the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission, U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Oneida County Sheriff’s Department,” said Todd Schaller, Chief Department of Natural Resources Warden.
“Indiscriminately targeting wildlife predators with poison to improve hunting opportunities is not only unethical, it is illegal. Such use of systemic poisons kills non-targeted species, such as our national symbol, and causes environmental contamination,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent in Charge Gregory Jackson. “We are pleased with the efforts from our state, local and federal partners.”
Randall K. Ashe, Special Agent in Charge of Environmental Protection Agency criminal enforcement program in Wisconsin stated, “Product labels are designed to ensure the safe use and application of pesticides. Using pesticides for purposes other than their registered use is illegal and puts people, animals and the environment at risk of exposure. Today’s action shows that individuals who misuse these products and kill protected wildlife will be prosecuted.”
The charges against Paul and Alvin Sowinski were the result of a joint investigation conducted by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The prosecution of this case has been handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter M. Jarosz.

By Tina Shaw

Last updated: September 3, 2014