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Max and I returned recently from the border Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) in northern Minnesota, where there is a many wildlife to see, particularly bald eagles. As we were canoeing one afternoon on a lake with 3 bald eagles paris around and also chirping at every other, he asked what would take place if an eagle attacked us. He knew enough already that it was a felony to kill a bald eagle (at the very least on purpose), however what if you eliminated one in me defense? would certainly that it is in illegal? What around killing one in a “stand her ground” state?

As a lawyer, ns felt obliged to answer favor a lawyer: that depends. Actually, favor I commonly do, I stated I no sure.

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While the US federal government removed the bald eagle from the endangered varieties list in 2007, the is still protected by two federal laws: the Bald and golden Eagle security Act and the Migratory Bird treaty Act. Essentially, federal regulation prohibits anyone there is no a ideal federal allow from:

knowingly, or with wanton neglect for the aftermath of his act take, possess, sell, purchase, barter, sell to sell, acquisition or barter, transport, export or import, at any kind of time or in any manner any bald eagle frequently known as the American eagle or any gold eagle, lively or dead, or any kind of part, nest, or egg thereof

Among various other things, you cannot “take” (i.e., kill) a fully eagle without severe consequences. The U.S. Fish and also Wildlife company helps to enforce the law and also manages patent “to take, possess, and transport fully and golden eagles for scientific, educational, and Indian spiritual purposes, depredation, and falconry (golden eagles).”

The crucial word right here is depredation, known less legally as “plundering.” that is, if a fully eagle is plundering you or your children or your residence or your poodle, you might be may be to acquire a federal eagle depredation permit to take care of that eagle. Yet it doesn’t median you deserve to go out with a gun and also kill one, even if girlfriend think you space standing her ground in defense the yourself and your goats. Moreover, a federal eagle depredation allow would most likely only result in temporary relocating the offending eagle’s nest. Death the bald eagle for its depredating ways? extremely doubtful.

If you killed a outright eagle there is no a permit, suffice it come say that commonwealth authorities would be out to investigate to recognize one thing: what the hell to be you doing? If you insurance claim self defense, then good luck.

While there room apparently unverified historical legends of bald eagles delivering off toddlers in the late 19th and also early 20th century, the likelihood that that ever happening now is rare, if missing (unless girlfriend fake it, like these enterprising computer animation students).

Ultimately, as one fish and wildlife representative said to me in an email (yes, I in reality emailed the fish and also wildlife organization to ask):

I perform not have any kind of stories of citizens having close brushes with eagles that have escalated to a life or death instance for the bird. Ns have talked with someone who asserted that an eagle to be interested in spend his child; yet that is very unlikely and was clear unconfirmed.

Given the rarity of one unprovoked fully eagle attack, the facts most likely won’t line up in your favor. And also that’s the bottom line: deserve to you establish the basic legal demands for using deadly force in defense the yourself? Those include:

(1) the lack of aggression or provocation on your part; (2) one actual and honest belief that you to be in impending danger of death or an excellent bodily harm; (3) the existence of reasonable grounds for your belief; and also (4) the lack of a reasonable possibility of retreat to stop the danger.

This is the conventional under Minnesota law. So-called “stand your ground” or “shoot first” states—like our neighbors in southern Dakota and the fine folks in Florida—omit the 4th element, the of retreat. The 4th element likewise would not apply in most states if the outright eagle had unlawfully gotten in your home and also attacked you in her kitchen (otherwise known as “the bald eagle in her castle doctrine” of self-defense).

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Again, assuming you can accomplish the legit standard—which seems very unlikely offered the rarity the unprovoked fully eagle attacks—you may be able to make a instance for death a bald eagle in self-defense. But I have serious doubts that you could successfully develop the first element, that of an unprovoked attack, or the you might successfully show on objectively reasonable grounds that you to be in imminent danger of death or good bodily harm from a outright eagle. For that, you’d probably be answering plenty of early inquiries from federal officials about what provoked the outright eagle to strike you and also how you happened to death it. Ultimately, you will do probably end up in a plea deal and paying a fine, doing time, or negotiating something in between.