Buerkle enters plea deal in bald eagle case

By Angel Wyrwas

Court documents filed August 1 show that Dale Buerkle, 66, entered into a plea agreement with the State of Montana for charges stemming from a 2016 Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks investigation.

In March and April of last year, FWP officials retrieved a bald eagle carcass, three coyote carcasses and a hawk carcass on land neighboring Buerkle’s. An investigation found Buerkle had injected a calf carcass with the pesticide Carbofuran, leaving it near where the other animal carcasses were found. Later that month toxicology results showed that each of the carcasses tested positive for carbamate carbofuran. Carbofuran is currently illegal in the United States.

The Plevna-area rancher admitted Tuesday, during a hearing in U.S. District Court in Billings, that he killed a bald eagle by illegally using the pesticide.

As per the plea agreement, Buerkle pleaded guilty to the unlawful taking of a bald eagle. Two other charges that he faces, including unlawful taking of a migratory bird, a hawk, and unlawful use of a registered pesticide, are to be dismissed at sentencing if the Court accepts the plea agreement.

The plea deal calls for the prosecution to recommend one year of probation and payment of $1,000 restitution. Buerkle faces a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Timothy Cavan set sentencing for Nov. 16.