Further prison sentences handed down by American courts for stealing nestling peregrines.

This latest story from the United States relating to the ongoing illegal thefts of peregrine nestling has just reached us having been sent by one of our many American readers. Peregrine theft is taken very seriously by the courts in the USA, just take a look at the penalties for stealing young falcons. What seems curious, a number of American courts appear to be handing down more lenient sentences for killing protected raptors than stealing them.

GOLD BEACH – Two of three Oregon men indicted by a Curry County grand jury for illegally taking young peregrine falcons from nests from the headlands of Port Orford have been convicted and are scheduled to be sentenced in the next few weeks. The third has asked for a jury trial.

Bert J. Loessberg, 53, Eugene, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to felony first-degree theft and a wildlife law violation in a plea bargain which saw a second wildlife law violation, two criminal trespass charges and a charge of harassing wildlife dismissed.

Judge Jesse Margolis told Loessberg that the maximum sentence for the theft conviction is five years in prison and $125,000 fine and the maximum sentence for the wildlife violation, unlawfully removing a peregrine falcon from its natural habitat, is one year in jail and a $6,250 fine.

Margolis asked if there was a legal excuse for what he did. Loessberg’s attorney, Robert Schrank, replied: “No legal excuse. There was a valid permit that was never used.”

Wayne A. Skankey, 51, Beaverton, pleaded guilty on Sept. 25 of first-degree theft as a misdemeanour and criminal trespass.

Both Loessberg and Skankey are scheduled to be sentenced in December. 11.

Clinton Paul Rand, 35, Terrebone, pleaded not guilty to all charges and a three-day trial was scheduled to begin April 13.

Rand’s attorney, Jim Gardner, asked for trial to be set but to allow negotiations to continue until the December. 11 sentencing for the other two, but Margolis refused.

The judge said that under the court’s rules, once the pleas were entered trial would be scheduled and Rand would face a jury on all charges or plead guilty to them.

“We’ve done a lot of attempts to negotiate,” Gardner said and entered not guilty pleas and asked for the trial dates.

The three were indicted on charges of felony first-degree theft, the theft of a peregrine falcon, removed from habitat, on May 30. The habitat is reportedly about 30 to 40 feet down a 200 foot cliff.

The three were also charged with three Class A misdemeanours, including removal of wildlife in violation of permit, failure to make timely notice to ODFW of intent to make a nest entry and harassing wildlife.

They were also charged with two counts each of second degree criminal trespass for entering two properties on King Street in Port Orford to get access to the falcons.

The three were arraigned on Aug. 31.

Similar charges against Zayne J. Lees, 60, Powell Butte, were dismissed in court by Curry County District Attorney Everett Dial on Sept. 11.

Peregrine falcons are the fastest animals on earth, diving at speeds of more than 200 mph.

Falcons have had a long association with people. Falconry, the use of birds of prey in hunting, dates back to the year 2000 B.C. in ancient Egypt and China.

The practice reached Europe by 300 B.C. Because of its strength, intelligence, and manoeuvrability, the peregrine falcon was a prized possession among falconers. The peregrine falcon was the bird used by royalty in the Middle Ages, and its nests were sometimes the exclusive property of the nobles.

Widespread use of the pesticide DDT during the 1940s, 50s and 60s, caused peregrines to lay eggs with thin eggshells which cracked during incubation. By 1970, nesting peregrines were virtually eliminated from the Continental United States — there were no peregrines nesting east of the Mississippi River and only a handful in the Western United States. In Oregon, nesting peregrines disappeared completely, according to the Audubon Society of Portland.

DDT was banned in 1972 and the American peregrine falcon was listed as endangered under the Federal Endangered Species Act in 1973. A nearly four-decade-long recovery effort has brought the American peregrine falcon back from the brink of extinction. Today there are more than 2,000 known peregrine nest sites nationwide and more than 140 peregrine nest sites in Oregon. They were delisted from the Federal endangered species list in 1999 and the State of Oregon endangered species list in 2007.

Since the peregrine falcon was removed from the endangered list, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife issues a handful of permits to take them each year — issued by lottery.

But those taking those falcons must follow exact rules.

The indictment charges the three men violated the conditions of a wildlife removal from habitat permit.

The rules require that to make a nest entry to capture a young falcon, the ODFW must be given notice at least seven days in advance of their attempt.

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