Sentences handed down in wildlife poisonings
Two Sugar Camp men who used a pesticide to kill wildlife have been sentenced. Alvin Sowinski, 78, was ordered to pay $100,000 in restitution and a $30,000 fine. He was also sentenced to four months of home confinement and one year of probation, and he is banned from hunting, fishing and trapping for seven years. His son, Paul, 46, was ordered to pay $100,000 in restitution and a $10,000 fine. He was also sentenced to one year of probation and his hunting, fishing and trapping privileges have been suspended for five years.
In May of this year, both men pleaded guilty to violating the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act which provides criminal penalties for possession or taking of the American bald eagle. According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Western District of Wisconsin, the use of the insecticide Carbofuran killed several species of animals on the Sowinski property in Sugar Camp between May 2007 and March 2010, including at least two American bald eagles.
In May 2007, a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) warden initiated an investigation into potential poisoning of animals on property owned by Sowinski Real Estate LLC. The property is approximately four miles west of Alvin’s homestead property. The DNR warden found dead a bald eagle, a crow, a gray squirrel, and a bobcat, within 100 yards of a deer carcass that the warden suspected to contain a poisonous substance. The deer carcass was tested by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Forensic Laboratory and found to contain the insecticide Carbofuran. The bald eagle, crow, gray squirrel and bobcat were also tested by the lab, and lab personnel concluded that the animals died as a result of ingesting Carbofuran.
Alvin and Paul Sowinski live in separate homes in the Town of Sugar Camp. Their family owns about 8,000 acres of land in Oneida County with approximately 4,000 acres consisting of an active farming operation.
In the winter of 2010 and continuing through April 13, 2010, Alvin Sowinski placed several bait sites on the Sowinski property near his homestead for the purpose of killing predators, such as fishers, bobcats, coyotes and gray timber wolves. Law enforcement personnel found at least nine bait sites on the Sowinski property during this time period. These bait sites contained the remains of beavers and white-tailed deer, and processed meats. One of the bait sites found by law enforcement contained antifreeze in a coffee container.
Law enforcement located the following animals which died on or near these bait sites on the Sowinski property: 18 crows and ravens, three chickadees, one nuthatch, one turkey vulture, one blue jay, five coyotes, one bobcat, one skunk, one red squirrel, and three ermine. The bait at certain of these sites was analyzed by the USFWS Laboratory Forensic Lab and found to contain the insecticide Carbofuran. The lab also examined some of the dead wildlife (22 animals), and lab personnel concluded they died as a result of ingesting Carbofuran, except for one of the chickadees, the blue jay and the ermine. In addition, law enforcement found the remains of two bald eagles and one rough-legged hawk in another area of the property which they believed to be located near a bait site from the previous winter (2009), and in the vicinity of a deer stand used by Paul Sowinski. However, the USFWS lab was unable to confirm the presence of Carbofuran or any other poison in the two eagles, rough legged hawk or suspected bait site.
Paul Sowinski was aware that his father was placing poison bait sites on the Sowinski property in 2010, but was not aware what chemical Alvin was using to mix with the bait material. In 2009, Paul Sowinski found two dead eagles near his deer stand and threw them in the woods. Two eagles were later recovered by law enforcement. He also admitted that he found another bald eagle, which had been placed on the property by law enforcement as part of its investigation, and burned it in a brush pile because he did not want authorities to find it, and he did not want anyone to get into trouble.
On May 12, 2010, federal search warrants were executed by law enforcement from the Wisconsin DNR, Oneida County Sheriff’s Department and the WSFWS, on seven different locations on the Sowinski property in Sugar Camp, looking for evidence of wildlife poisoning on the property. Law enforcement located the following additional animals that died on or near bait sites on the Sowinski property: one bald eagle, 21 crows and ravens, four coyotes, one hawk, two songbirds, one weasel and two small unidentified mammals. Several other dead animals were found in another area, but where bait materials were not in the immediate vicinity: two bald eagles, a black bear, two ravens and a coyote. The animals seized during execution of the search warrants were not tested in the lab, but the circumstances surrounding their deaths and location is similar to those animals found by law enforcement earlier in 2010 which tested positive for Carbofuran poisoning.