A 77-year-old man from Colorado pleaded guilty to 10 misdemeanors including using poisons to kill wildlife. Colorado Parks and Wildlife said on Friday that John L. Divine pled guilty to poisoning bald eagles and other animals. He paid more than $8,000 in fines in April.
Divine told CPW officers he put out the poison because coyotes were killing his sheep, according to a local news source.
“His actions caused the death of multiple species of wildlife, including five bald eagles, a coyote, a fox, magpies, crows and ravens,” said CPW Wildlife Officer Jeremy Gallegos. “Putting out poison is dangerous and can be deadly for wildlife, domestic animals and people.”
The investigation began in January 2017, when Gallegos got a call reporting someone had found parts of a domestic sheep that appeared to be covered in poison in a Saguache County culvert. The caller also found several dead magpies nearby. Gallegos responded and found the sheep covered in a thick yellow liquid.
Gallegos came back the following day and found more pieces of sheep. When he noticed tire tracks, he decided to set up a game camera to monitor the area.
Eventually the wildlife officer retrieved footage showing a man who would later be identified as Divine putting a poisoned sheep’s liver in the area.
“Divine said he was trying to stop the coyotes and that he’d put antifreeze on the sheep. He also said he’d only baited one spot and then he led the officers there. But it was not the same location that Gallegos had initially investigated,” CPW said.
Divine eventually admitted to baiting the other location and was issued another ticket. In February, a different wildlife officer found a sick bald eagle and several dead bald eagles about a mile from one of the sites Gallegos had baited. The officer also found the carcasses of a coyote and red fox.
The injured bald eagle was taken to a CPW facility and nursed back to health before being released back into the wild in late March.
But the end of March, a total of five dead bald eagles were a part of the poisoning carnage.
“The evidence clearly showed that all these animals were killed by the pesticide put out by Mr. Divine,” Gallegos said.
“After receiving test results on the cause of death and not finding any more dead eagles, Gallegos met with Divine’s attorney and served the citation with the new charges in late November 2017. Divine admitted guilt and eventually paid the fine,” CPW said.
CPW thanked area landowners for contacting the agency upon finding animal carcasses.
“Without these individuals taking that step to notify us, we probably would have never known fully why the bald eagles were disappearing in the area, and there wouldn’t have been any accountability for the individual responsible,” Gallegos said in a press release issued Friday. “It goes to show that we all can be a voice for wildlife.”
Citing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, CPW said poisoning is one of the five most common forms of bald eagle mortalities nationwide.