Environment | Law | National

Prosecutors announce charges against 15 for trafficking of eagles

A bald eagle. Photo: Jerry McFarland

Federal authorities announced charges against 15 people in connection with the illegal trafficking of eagle feathers and eagle parts.

As part of Operation Dakota Flyer, federal agents went undercover for two years and made contacts with people who sold eagles, hawks and other birds that are protected by law. As many as 250 eagles alone had been killed for their parts, authorities said.

“This was the illegal black market trafficking of eagles and eagle parts for profit,” U.S. Attorney Randy Seiler of South Dakota said at an April 24 news conference, the Associated Press reported. “It basically was a chop shop for eagles.”

Most of the 15 defendants are residents of South Dakota. They include Troy Fairbanks and his two adult sons, Majestic Fairbanks and Troy Young Fairbanks, with the father alleging to have bragged about his ability to procure eagle feathers and eagle parts.

"Troy Fairbanks referred to himself as the 'Best feather man in the Midwest,'" the indictment in their case stated. According to prosecutors, the three men hail from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe.

Other defendants are residents of Iowa, Nebraska and Wyoming. A total of eight different cases were filed against the 15 individuals. Agents expect more to be filed, according to news reports.

Read More on the Story:
Eagle ‘chop shop’ case offers window into trafficking trade (AP 4/26)
A ‘chop shop for eagles’: How the feds infiltrated a vast bird-smuggling ring (The Washington Post 4/26)
15 defendants indicted for the illegal trafficking of eagles (KEVN 4/24)
Feds clip the wings of eagle trafficking ring (KOTA 4/24)