Murder in the Midwest Farmer Sentenced
LAST OCTOBER, UP TO 27,000 RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDS AND OTHER SPECIES WERE FOUND DEAD IN FARM FIELDS OF SOUTHERN ILLINOIS (Across the River from St. Louis, headquarters of major agricultural corporations).
An unnamed farmer deliberately laced his fields with Carbofuran, a pesticide known for 30 years to kill birds. This slaughter was the biggest kill-off of American birds in this country since the Valdez. Red-wings are migratory birds protected by Federal law. (Native-American birds cannot be slaughtered. Introduced species such as the Starling, the English Sparrow, and most common European Pigeons are not protected.)
We're happy to report that "justice" has prevailed.
Harvey Kenneth Culli, age 80, pleaded guilty as charged, in June. On September 11, 2000 the US District Court fined him $5000 and sentenced him to 3 years probabion plus court costs of $15 -- a significant increase over past penalties.
The Belleville (Illinois) News Democrat, (and Fox television) reported thoroughly. The following development appeared on page one, August 11, 2000, and demonstrates a welcome determination to make such incidents both unacceptable and unprofitable:
CULLI AND SON SUED FOR POISONING BIRDS
He Pleaded Guilty to Charges in June, By Beth Gansmann
Two St. Clair County men were slapped with a federal lawsuit Wednesday for killing more than 27,000 birds last October. The environmental enforcement division of the Illinois Attorney General's office filed the suit against Harvey and Rickey Culli in federal court in East St. Louis.
Harvey Culli spread wheat laced with the pesticide Furadan to keep birds out of 18 acres of winter wheat on the family farm, southwest of Mascourtah. His son, Rickey Culli, had a permit to use the pesticide to control boll weevils in alfalfa.
The attorney general's lawsuit charges the pair with violating the Illinois Environmental Protection Act and the federal law dealing ith the protection of natural resources and asked for over $1 million for investigation, damages, and penalties for the release of the hazardous materials by Culli. The suit also requests an order from the federal magistrate that requires the defendants "to undertake and complete, as expeditiously as possible, any action required to remedy the contamination, including all investigation and remediation necessitated by the soil contamination."
Culli's attorney ... did not return calls regarding the case.
Female Red-winged Blackbird with protective coloring
Tim Schweizer, a spokesman for the Department of Natural Resources, said about 12 people from the department spent almost four days on the scene, picking up bird carcasses.
"The birds' bodies had to be treated as hazardous materials because of the chemicals they ingested," he said. "They had to be incinerated or placed in a hazardous materials landfill."
After 20,000 red-winged blackbirds and over 7,000 brown-headed cow birds, grackles, starlings, larks, and short-tailed shrews were found dead on the Culli farm, Harvey Culli was charged with two federal midsdemeanor charges of violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and violating the federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act.
Furadan, or carbofuran, is highly toxic to mammals, birds, fish and other waterfowl, according to the Envionmental Protection Agency. Because the poison was applied to the wheat seed and then ingested by the birds, ground water contamination was not a concern.
"It certainly was an inappropriate and dangerous way to deal with nuisance wildlife," said Schweizer.
FYI: Many of the farmers shooting or poisoning flocks are raising corn for automobiles.
Photographs special courtesy of Don DesJardin, Ventura, California.
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