CAROLINE, N.Y. – Donald Mix, 57, is facing three New York Environmental Conservation Law charges after allegedly shooting a bald eagle, a threatened species, in Caroline.

According to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, Mix is charged with illegal taking of protected wildlife, illegal taking of wild birds and illegal taking of a bald eagle. Penalties for the first two tickets range from a $250 fine to 15 days in jail, or both. Penalties for taking a bald eagle range from a $5,000 fine to 90 days in jail, or both.

A neighbor reported the incident to the DEC after hearing gunshots and noticing a large bird flopping in the field behind her home, according to a DEC spokesperson. Environmental conservation officer Ozzie Eisenberg found a deceased adult bald eagle when he arrived at the scene.

Bald eagles are no longer on the federal endangered species list, but they are still considered threatened. On its website, the DEC says the birds have come back from the brink of extinction thanks to conservation efforts like banning DDT in the 1970s and prohibitions on taking or killing bald eagles.

“Through the work of New York’s program and those in other states and Canada, the magnificent bird that symbolizes our nation is coming back from the brink of extinction. Higher population levels and successful reproduction mean the bald eagle is on a firmer footing today than it has been for half a century,” the DEC says.

Mix reportedly told Eisenberg he thought the bird was a turkey vulture, according to the DEC’s statement. “A subsequent interview with a neighbor revealed that the man had placed deer carcasses in the field to shoot coyotes and turkey vultures, another protected species,” the DEC said.

It is legal to hunt coyotes from October 1 to March 31 in most of New York, including Tompkins County. Turkey vultures, however, are a protected species in New York and are protected by the federal Migratory Bird Protection Act.

Mix is scheduled to appear in the Town of Caroline Court on Jan. 22.

Those interested in protecting bald eagles in New York can contribute to the DEC’s monitoring efforts by reporting observations of the birds.

Featured image: Provided photo of the deceased bald eagle.

Devon Magliozzi

Devon Magliozzi is a reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at dmagliozzi@ithacavoice.com or 607-391-0328.