A Pacifica man has pleaded guilty in federal court in San Francisco to a charge of selling a stuffed American bald eagle. James Dickson, 57, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge William Alsup on Tuesday to one count of engaging in illegal trade of protected wildlife. The item Dickson sold was a taxidermy mount of a bald eagle, according to the criminal charge filed by federal prosecutors in March. The bald eagle — the national bird of the United States — is protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which prohibits harming or killing members of the species. U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag said Dickson admitted during the plea to vending the stuffed bird to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service undercover agent for $2,200 on Nov. 24, 2009. Haag said Dickson also acknowledged illegally selling or offering to sell mounts of other protected wildlife — including a black bear, a Kodiak bear, a Siberian tiger and a black panther — through postings on Craigslist. The U.S. attorney said the investigation began after a California Fish and Game Department employee noticed one of the Craigslist postings and referred the matter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The undercover federal wildlife agent then contacted Dickson on Oct. 26, 2009, about his Craigslist proposal to sell a stuffed polar bear for $6,500. Dickson then offered to sell the agent the mounted polar bear, a stuffed black bear and the eagle and said he knew that it was illegal to sell all three of them, Haag said. Dickson will be sentenced by Alsup on July 12. The crime carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. In the mid-20th century, the bald eagle nearly became extinct, partly because of hunting, habitat loss and the thinning of eggshells caused by the pesticide DDT. The bird was listed as an endangered species by the Fish and Wildlife Service between 1967 and 1995 and as a threatened species until 2007. The species is now ecovering as a result of the banning of DDT and habitat protection, according to the service.
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