Not many people know there are special permits to take bald eagles -- the prospect even took a few of our co-workers by surprise.
Nevertheless, the Northern Arapaho Tribe in Wyoming was granted a permit to kill two bald eagles Friday after winning a lengthy court battle in which tribe officials contended that the kill is part of the tribe's religion.
The Associated Press reports that thousands of tribes apply for eagle feathers and carcasses from federal repositories, but permits to actually kill eagles are becoming more and more rare, as the bald eagle is protected by federal law under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.
However, the permits granted to the Northern Arapahos could conflict with the wishes of another Wyoming tribe, the Eastern Shoshones, who filed a federal suit Tuesday saying the tribe opposed the killing of bald eagles on Wind River Indian Reservation, which the tribes share.
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The Fish and Wildlife Service said in 2009 it had never granted permits to kill bald eagles, though it had granted permits to the Hopi Tribe in Arizona to kill golden eagles since the 1980s.
The lawsuit was filed last year after tribe member Winslow Friday shot and killed a bald eagle at Wind River Indian Reservation to be used in the tribe's Sun Dance, resulting in a long court battle. Charges were later dismissed by then-federal judge William Downes, who said any effort by Friday to obtain a permit would have been pointless. However, federal prosecutors appealed the decision and reinstated criminal charges. Friday pleaded guilty after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case.