American Wind Industry Wildlife Biologist Fined in Unlawful Eagle Handling

A Southern California wildlife biologist sentenced for handling eagles without a license may have performed similar tasks for wind power companies while he was unlicensed. John David Bittner, who runs the Ramona-based Wildlife Research Institute, was sentenced to three years probation and a $7,500 fine for violations of the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA).
This eagle was fitted with a transmitter in February 2010, after the biologist’s permit to handle eagles had expired. | Photo: Courtesy U.S. Attorney’s Office

Bittner, who has been capturing and banding wild birds since the 1960s, was also ordered by U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge David H. Bartick to release years’ worth of telemetry and other data he’d collected on eagles and other birds. Bittner had refused to give that data to the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) — though some of it was available to major donors to his Wildlife Research Center.

The maximum penalty for violations like Bittner’s under the BGEPA includes one year in prison. Prosecutors hadn’t asked for jail time, citing Bittner’s reputation in the community, but had asked for a $10,000 fine in addition to the release of the telemetry data. You can read the full account of this American news story by Chris Clarke here.


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