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Man pleads guilty to poisoning 5 bald eagles, says he wanted to kill coyotes

Man pleads guilty to poisoning 5 bald eagles
Credit: Colorado Parks & Wildlife via cpw.state.co.us
A 2017 photo shows a bald eagle that died after eating poison in Colorado.

DENVER, Colo. – A 77-year-old man has pleaded guilty to 10 misdemeanors after being accused of putting out poison that killed multiple animals, including five bald eagles, Colorado Parks and Wildlife announced Friday.

Rancher John Divine of Rio Grande County told officers that he put out the poison because coyotes were killing his sheep. CPW says he paid $8,283.50 in fines in April.

“His actions caused the death of multiple species of wildlife, including five bald eagles, a coyote, a fox, magpies, crows and ravens,” a CPW release quotes 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 a CPW officer received a report of sheep parts that appeared to be slathered with poison.

A game camera would later document Divine in the area, the release says. When officers came to his house, he told them he was putting antifreeze on the sheep to stop coyotes.

As the investigation continued, Divine admitted to lying to officers about a bait site, CPW says. He paid a $362.50 fine on Feb. 7, 2017, according to the release.

A few days later, a sick bald eagle was found a mile away from one of the bait sites. So were the carcasses of two more eagles, a coyote and a red fox. Another dead eagle was also found. Two other dead eagles were found soon after.

An autopsy revealed those eagles were killed by a pesticide that had apparently been put out by Divine.

A few months later, Divine was served with a citation and new charges.

Follow Allison Sylte on Twitter: @AllisonSylte; contributing: Joel Shannon, USA TODAY