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Bald eagle

Federal authorities, with help from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Game and Fish Department, are investigating the death of six protected bald eagles found several weeks ago in the McLaughlin, S.D. area. It appears the eagles died from ingesting poisoned prairie dogs.


Federal authorities are investigating the death of six bald eagles on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation near McLaughlin, S.D.

The dead eagles were discovered March 24 by an officer with the Standing Rock Game and Fish Department. The department director Jeff Kelly said all six were found in the same general area and the investigation is proceeding under the possibility the protected birds died from eating poisoned prairie dogs.

Kelly said hundreds of bald eagles migrate through the area, and he and his officers are keeping watch for any more mortality.

“It is quite alarming to find six,” he said. “The area is so wide open, and we don’t know if there are more out there.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the South Dakota U.S. Attorney’s office are involved in the investigation. While bald eagles are no longer on the Endangered Species list, they are covered by the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. Violations can result in a $100,000 fine and one year’s imprisonment.

Kevin Shelley, director of the wildlife agency, said he couldn’t comment because of the ongoing status of the investigation.

“There are eagles that died of unnatural causes. It’s an emerging concern that we’re dealing with,” Shelley said.

He said his office will support the EPA, whose involvement is apparently related to the poison and method by which it was used to kill prairie dogs. Some poisons are banned, and, when allowable rodenticides are used, dead rodents, such as prairie dogs, should be quickly and properly disposed of and the poison itself injected into the burrows, not scattered, according to product websites.

(Reach Lauren Donovan at 701-220-5511 or