Farmer faces jail time for accidentally poisoning bald eagles

WILSON, N.Y. (WIVB) – A Niagara County farmer could face up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine for accidentally poisoning and killing three bald eagles. The U.S. Attorney’s Office says Kirk Canfield, 54, from Wilson admits to violating the Federal Bald and Gold Eagle Protection Act when he left poison meat out on his property last year.

He was trying to kill coyotes on his property, but the bald eagles ate the meat instead, and later died. Tanya Lowe, Director of Wildlife Education at Hawk Creek Wildlife Center in East Aurora says there’s been an increase in the eagle population in Western New York, with nests popping up along the Niagara River. She says there has been a resurgence here, despite a rise in violations. “The violations have always been there, whether it’s poisoning on purpose, accidental and also poaching,” she said.

Someone driving by on an ATV found the carcasses on the Canfield farm, and took pictures. Lowe says this is a direct violation of the act. She said, “It prohibits anybody without a permit from the Secretary of the Interior from taking bald or golden eagles. This includes eggs, nests, body parts anything like that,” she said. She said there is a big human-wildlife interaction problem and this problem is happening not just in WNY, but across the country.

“As human population continues to grow, animal population continues to shrink,” Lowe said. “It’s something that is not just a problem here, but everywhere.”

Hawk Creek has seen firsthand the frustrating amount of abuse.

“We have three bald eagles, two of them were shot. You can’t really mistake an adult bald eagle for anything other than what it is,” Lowe said.

She said what happened in Wilson makes an impact on the bald eagle population as a whole.

“One of the biggest misconceptions that people have is that what one person does doesn’t make a difference in a global scale, because it does,” she said.

News 4 contacted Canfield for comment, but he has not yet returned calls. He will appear in court for sentencing on October 2.

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