In a hearing that took all of seven minutes Dale Duwayne Buerkle, 66, pleaded not guilty to federal charges June 11 in Billings. Buerkle, a long time resident of Plevna, is accused of illegally killing a bald eagle and a hawk with pesticide.
By Angel Wyrwas
According to court records Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks (FWP) Warden Zach Phillips was notified on March 20, 2016 by one of Buerkle’s neighbors that his son had found a dead bald eagle on his property. FWP Biologist Melissa Foster retrieved the bald eagle carcass and secured it in a FWP freezer.
The documents go on to say that on March 31, 2016, Warden Phillips located and retrieved three coyote carcasses from property neighboring Buerkle’s. Warden Phillips observed a calf carcass just across the property line fence on land belonging to Buerkle. The calf and coyote carcasses were found about 20 yards from one another. Warden Phillips sent the coyote and bald eagle carcasses to the FWP wildlife lab in Bozeman.
In the following April a dead hawk was found in the same pasture where the other carcasses had been recovered. Later that month toxicology results showed that each of the coyotes and bald eagle tested positive for carbamate carbofuran. Carbofuran is a pesticide that is classified as an extremely hazardous substance in the United States and subject to strict reporting requirements by facilities which produce, store, or use it.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Godfrey said in court records that on May 2, 2016 Warden Phillips interviewed Buerkle. Buerkle admitted he injected carbofuran into the stomach of two dead calves to kill coyotes. Buerkle also admitted he knew that using the carbofuran was not legal but said he had no clue that it killed birds. He retrieved the remaining carbofuran he had and turned it over to Warden Phillips. Court records state that Buerkle said he put the calf carcasses out at the end of February or the first part of March 2016.
In June of the same year results of all samples of carcasses, insects, soil and poison sent to the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Lab tested positive for carbamate carbofuran. The cause of death of the hawk was determined to be poisoning by carbofuran.
Buerkle is charged with one count of unlawful taking of a bald eagle, one count of unlawful taking a migratory bird and one count unlawful use of registered pesticide. He was released on his own recognizance pending trial. Buerkle faces a maximum one-year in prison and a $100,000 fine if convicted on the bald eagle count. A trial date has been set for Tuesday, August 8, 2017 with Magistrate Judge Timothy J. Cavan presiding.