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Bald eagle perched at Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by USFWS.

Eagle shooter sentenced in Tampa, Florida

Jesse Barresse of Hudson was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Tampa today for intentionally shooting and killing a bald eagle, while he was illegally duck hunting in Ruskin on January 13, 2008. Barresse received six months in federal prison, followed by a year of supervised release. He also must pay $500 in restitution to the North American Wetlands Conservation Fund and $25 in court fees. Barresse was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Steven D. Merryday.

Barresse was charged with violating the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, a federal law protecting eagles, their nests, and young. For the violation, Barresse could have received a maximum sentence of one year in prison and up to a $100,000 fine.

“We will vigorously pursue those who kill or injure our nation’s symbol,” said Andrew Aloise, resident agent in charge for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Barresse was arrested after information was revealed he bragged about killing a bald eagle. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Special Agents uncovered the information while investigating the shooting of another bald eagle in a separate, unrelated case in Manatee County. This led to Barresse, who at the time was wanted in Missouri on drug- related charges. U.S. Marshals and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Agents arrested Barresse at his girlfriend’s home in Hudson on February 1, 2009, on that outstanding warrant.

Agents from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives interviewed Barresse at the Pasco County Jail, where he confessed to shooting the eagle. Barresse first claimed he thought he had shot an osprey, another federally protected species.

Two witnesses to the shooting gave statements implicating Barresse who pled guilty to shooting the eagle in U.S. District Court in Tampa, Florida on February 17, 2009.

As a species, the bald eagle was brought back from the brink of extinction through efforts to ban the use of the pesticide DDT, which was damaging the eagles eggs, and through the protection afforded by the Endangered Species Act.

The bald eagle was delisted last year and is an American success story and a victory for the Endangered Species Act. However, the bald eagle is still protected under State of Florida Statute 372.0725 which makes it a third degree felony to kill or wound any species designated as endangered or threatened under Florida law. Killing or wounding a bald eagle also violates two federal laws, the Eagle Protection Act, and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

This case was investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with assistance from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, and the Hillsborough County Sheriffs Department. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Cherie Krigsman from the U.S. Attorneys Office in the Middle District of Florida.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.


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