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MADISON – Scott C. Blader, United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, announced that MacFarlane Pheasants, Inc. (MPI), and Chris Theisen, 43, production manager at MPI, Janesville, Wisconsin, entered guilty pleas and were sentenced August 29 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen L. Crocker for taking or killing migratory birds in excess of those authorized by permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
MPI, and Theisen as the responsible manager of MPI, admitted that in February 2014 they took and killed migratory birds, specifically red-tailed hawks, in excess of the number which was authorized by a depredation permit they possessed.
MacFarlane Pheasants, Inc., raises and sells pheasants commercially. MPI had obtained permits from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service prior to 2014 to allow them to kill hawks that were undeterred by other measures and preyed on the MPI pheasants, sometimes causing thousands of dollars in losses to the business. In 2014, MPI held a permit which would allow the taking or killing of up to 10 red-tailed hawks that year. In 2015, U.S. Fish and Wildlife agents received a tip and subsequently developed evidence that MPI had taken more than 10 hawks in 2014, while representing in documents required to be filed with U.S. Fish and Wildlife that they had taken no hawks in 2014.
MPI was sentenced to pay the maximum fine of $15,000, and Chris Theisen was sentenced to pay $5,000. The Court ordered both fines to be paid to the North American Wetlands Conservation Fund Account. Additionally, MPI and Theisen were banned from applying for any depredation permits for five years.
U.S. Attorney Blader praised the efforts of the federal and state wildlife investigators which resulted in August 29’s guilty pleas and sentencing.
With respect to criminal prosecution and associated penalties for violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent in Charge Gregory Jackson stated, “While we have a system in place to help farmers and ranchers with the depredation of their animals, it’s essential that permit holders follow the law and work with us to find legal solutions.”
The charge against MPI and Theisen was the result of an investigation conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The prosecution of the case has been handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert A. Anderson.