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A Bay City farmer pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court to killing a bald eagle on his land in 2018.

Leonard Cornelius, 35, was placed on one-year probation and ordered to about $11,900 in restitution to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick. The court found he killed the animal knowingly and with wanton disregard for the consequences of his actions.

Bald eagles are no longer an endangered species, but are still protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. This law makes it a crime to kill, possess, sell, transport, export or import, any bald or golden eagle, alive or dead, including any part, nest, or egg, unless specifically allowed by permit.

On March 22, 2018, authorities located a dead bald eagle and a number of other dead animals that appeared to have been poisoned near a field southeast of Bay City. They began looking for the source of the poison and encountered Cornelius inspecting nearby fields, according to the news release.

He soon admitted he had placed the poison in his farm fields to kill birds that had been damaging his crops. Cornelius admitted he coated about 30 pounds of corn with poison. He then spread the corn on several of his fields in order to kill the birds, according to the release.

He acknowledged seeing dead birds and several dead hogs in the area after he spread the poison.

Laboratory analysis later confirmed poisoned corn caused the bald eagle’s death, according to the news release.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conducted the investigation with assistance of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert D. Thorpe Jr. is prosecuting the case. U.S. Magistrate Jason B. Libby presided over the case in Corpus Christi.

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