Someone is poaching bald eagles and hawks in the Mission Valley and selling their feathers.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service along with Tribal game wardens are working the case to find whoever is doing it.
Last weekend, residents in the Saint Ignatius area between Missoula and Polson found several bald eagles and hawks dead and dismembered and tossed in a creek.
Investigator Brandon Couture says the birds are often 'baited' with deer or elk carcasses left along the river corridor.
Then the suspects shoot the birds with a small-caliber rifle.
Couture says the harvested parts are then sold around the Pacific Northwest and Canada for thousands of dollars.
This crime breaks several federal and state laws and is now part of a wider investigation.
Anyone with information or to report poaching can contact tribal police at 406-675-4700.
The USFWS website states:
The bald eagle will continue to be protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act even though it has been delisted under the Endangered Species Act. This law, originally passed in 1940, provides for the protection of the bald eagle and the golden eagle (as amended in 1962) by prohibiting the take, possession, sale, purchase, barter, offer to sell, purchase or barter, transport, export or import, of any bald or golden eagle, alive or dead, including any part, nest, or egg, unless allowed by permit Bald Eagle sitting in tree (16 U.S.C. 668(a); 50 CFR 22).
"Take" includes pursue, shoot, shoot at, poison, wound, kill, capture, trap, collect, molest or disturb (16 U.S.C. 668c; 50 CFR 22.3). The 1972 amendments increased civil penalties for violating provisions of the Act to a maximum fine of $5,000 or one year imprisonment with $10,000 or not more than two years in prison for a second conviction. Felony convictions carry a maximum fine of $250,000 or two years of imprisonment. The fine doubles for an organization. Rewards are provided for information leading to arrest and conviction for violation of the Act.