Guilty Plea in Eagle Trafficking Case

Travis John Branson, a 48-year-old resident of Cusick, Washington, confessed to conspiring to hunt and slaughter bald and golden eagles on the Flathead Indian Reservation.

According to U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich, Branson then admitted to selling the birds on the black market across the United States and beyond.

Charges and Allegations

Branson pleaded guilty to a series of charges, including conspiracy, unlawful trafficking of bald and golden eagles, and violation of the Lacey Act.

The latter prohibits the interstate trade of wildlife acquired or sold in violation of federal or state laws.

Furthermore, Branson was charged with making false records or identifications related to illegal trafficking.

Court documents reveal that Branson, along with accomplices, engaged in the hunting and killing of eagles on the Flathead Indian Reservation from approximately January 2015 to March 2021.

One of Branson's alleged associates, Simon Paul, remains at large.

Incriminating Evidence

On March 1, 2021, a purchaser contacted Branson seeking eagle feathers for sale.

Branson promptly responded by providing images of golden eagle tail feathers and subsequently sold them for $650 via PayPal.

In a subsequent incident on March 13, 2021, Branson was apprehended after shooting and killing a golden eagle near Polson.

Law enforcement officers recovered eagle body parts from Branson's vehicle, including feet and feathers.

Additional evidence, including photographs and text messages retrieved from Branson's seized phones, highlighted his involvement in the illegal hunting and trafficking of eagles.

Legal Ramifications For Killing Eagles

Branson's actions carry severe legal consequences.

For conspiracy and Lacey Act violations, he faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and three years of supervised release.

Additionally, Branson is subject to penalties for unlawful trafficking of bald and golden eagles, including potential incarceration, fines, and supervised release.

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