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Individual Sentenced for Poisoning Migratory Birds

Misapplication of agricultural insecticide led to over 2,000 migratory bird deaths

WASHINGTON – Lyle Ravenkamp of Hugo, Colo., pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado and was sentenced for his role in the poisoning deaths of over 2,200 migratory birds on agricultural land, the Justice Department announced.

Ravenkamp pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, in connection with his misapplication of the chemical insecticide carbofuran to a 95-acre sunflower field in Lincoln County, Colo., in June 2006. Ravenkamp admitted that he applied the compound on the surface of the field, instead of below the surface, as he knew it was intended to be used. As a result, more than 2,200 migratory birds, including Mourning Doves (Zenaia macroura), Horned Larks (Eremophila alpestris), Western Meadowlarks (Sturnella neglecta), Red-winged Blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus) and Common Grackles (Quiscalus quiscula), died after ingesting the carbofuran, which is known to be highly toxic to birds.

Pursuant to a plea agreement, Magistrate Judge Michael Hagarty sentenced Ravenkamp to pay the maximum fine of $15,000, make additional restitution of $15,000 to the Colorado Wildlife Heritage Fund, and relinquish his pesticide applicator's license. Judge Hagarty placed Ravenkamp on probation for three years, during which he must perform community service in the form of specific wildlife habitat improvements to two parcels of property Ravenkamp owns in Lincoln County. These improvements will be coordinated with the Colorado Division of Wildlife and are valued at approximately $30,000.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act is a federal law that imposes a strict liability misdemeanor sanction for the unauthorized "taking" of several hundred species of birds without prior license or permit.

This case was investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Colorado Division of Wildlife. The case was prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorney Robert S. Anderson of the Department of Justice’s Environmental Crimes Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Linda McMahan of the District of Colorado.