Skip to main content
Press Release

Wisconsin Falconer Sentenced for Bartering Migratory Bird Taken from the Wild

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Wisconsin

MADISON, WIS. – Scott C. Blader, United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, announced that James Kitzman, 69, Oak Creek, Wisconsin, was sentenced today by U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen L. Crocker for engaging in a conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act with Edward Taylor, who was a falconer from Michigan.  Kitzman pleaded guilty to the charge on December 30, 2019.

Magistrate Judge Crocker ordered that Kitzman not engage in the sport of falconry for three years beginning today, and advised Kitzman that if he violated the three-year ban, he risked being charged with a felony and held in contempt of a court order.  The magistrate judge also imposed a fine of $15,000 payable to the Lacey Act Reward Fund, which Kitzman paid immediately.  Finally, the magistrate judge ordered that Kitzman forfeit to the government his Toyota pickup truck that he used to transport the illegally bartered goshawk.   

Kitzman and his co-conspirator, Edward Taylor, arranged to barter a northern goshawk taken from the wild in Vilas County, Wisconsin in exchange for a captive-bred Finnish goshawk.  It was part of the conspiracy that they covered up the receipt and transport of the northern goshawk from Wisconsin to Michigan, in violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) and the Lacey Act.  It is illegal to sell or barter northern goshawks because they are migratory birds and protected by the MBTA.  

Specifically, on May 26, 2017, Kitzman took from the wild a female northern goshawk from a nest located on state land in Vilas County.  Kitzman traded the northern goshawk for a Finnish goshawk from Taylor. Both Taylor and Kitzman filled out false reports with the Michigan DNR and Wisconsin DNR to cover up their actions.  Kitzman told his associates to “keep it hush-hush and not tell anybody” that he was giving the female northern goshawk to Taylor.  Kitzman also told Taylor to use a cover story if ever asked by authorities about how the northern goshawk was taken and transferred.

At today’s sentencing, Magistrate Judge Crocker observed that Kitzman appeared to be an exceptional falconer that somehow went off the beaten path which, while tragic, was entirely avoidable.  The magistrate judge noted, “The public need to know that the Lacey Act matters; the falconry rules matter.  These laws are in place to protect the falconry birds, and the public needs to know this message -- the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the government -- has their back.”  The magistrate judge added,  “If you break these rules, you will be punished, no matter how good a falconer you are.”

Edward Taylor was sentenced on February 25, 2020. He received a fine of $10,000 and was ordered to transfer the illegally taken northern goshawk to the government so that it could be placed with a wildlife rehabilitator for its eventual release back into the wild.

The charges against Taylor and Kitzman were the result of an investigation conducted by law enforcement agents with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Bureau of Law Enforcement, and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.  The prosecution of this case has been handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel J. Graber.

Updated March 2, 2020