3 men sentenced for killing protected hawks, owls in Jasper County

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COLUMBIA — A South Carolina hunting preserve is paying $250,000 in restitution after three of its employees pleaded guilty to illegally trapping and killing hawks and owls to improve quail hunting on the property, U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles announced Friday.

The financial penalty against Mackay Point Planta­tion in Jasper County is among the largest ever imposed for violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The money will be divided among local animal charities, according to Nettles’ release.

Mackay Point general manager William Martin, 59; hunting dog trainer Keith Gebhardt, 54; and equipment handler Mark Argetsinger, 63, pleaded guilty. They were each sentenced Friday to six months of probation, 25 hours of community service and a one-year ban on trapping. Martin was fined $1,000 for leading the operation, and the other two were fined $500 each, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Rhett DeHart, who prosecuted the case.

The three workers release about 6,000 quail yearly on the private, 8,000-acre plantation for owners to hunt.

They placed dozens of baited, steel traps on the property to kill red-tail hawks and great horned owls, which eat quail. The protected birds cannot be killed without a permit.

Prosecutors say killing birds of prey to improve quail hunting has become a widespread problem in the South­east, and that trapping the birds is a gruesome way for them to die because they’re often trapped for days.

Acting on a confidential tip, agents with the state Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service installed cameras on the plantation over a two-year period. Surveillance video showed Argetsinger and Gebhardt trapping and shooting more than 30 hawks and owls.

There is no evidence that the plantation’s owners were involved, the release said.

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hoptoad 08/30/14 - 12:36 pm
These people did break the

These people did break the law and should be punished. However, how come it's all right for the Global Warming/EPA folks to kill millions of birds with their windmills?

Covered up and never mentioned that I know of.

corgimom 08/30/14 - 04:56 pm
Well, hoptoad, if you get

Well, hoptoad, if you get right down to it, thousands of birds are killed every year when they fly into plate glass windows.

And it's not "covered up" about the windmills, it's well-known.

Birds also get sucked into jet engines, should we ban planes, along with plate glass windows?

The difference is unavoidable accident versus deliberate killing so that a bunch of rich guys can hunt.

itsanotherday1 08/30/14 - 10:43 pm
I wouldn't have a problem

I wouldn't have a problem with them trapping and relocating, legal or not. But killing? Not a chance. These are magnificent birds that are protected for a reason. People that think animals are here for our pleasure and can deal with them on our whim are just ignorant IMO. Humans are the apex predator, but with a brain and logic. We should do better.

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