A Tompkins County man, who claimed he thought he was shooting a turkey vulture, could face jail time for killing a protected American Bald Eagle.

Win McNamee/Getty Images
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Officials with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation say even if 57-year-old Donald Mix did shoot a vulture, those birds are also protected.

State officials were notified December 15 of shots fired in the Town of Caroline and that an adult eagle was found fatally shot in the chest.

Mix is charged with illegal taking of protected wildlife, illegal taking of wild birds and illegal taking of a bald eagle.

The charges carry the possibility of three months in jail and fines if Mix is convicted.

It is illegal to not only shoot eagles but to possess or sell any part of the bird, including eagle feathers without a permit, except possession of feathers used in Native American rituals.

In August, eyebrows were raised when New York Governor Andrew Cuomo boasted that one of his prized possessions was an eagle feather he displayed on a fireplace.  The Governor was surprised when he was told about the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act from the 1940s that prohibits non-Native Americans from disturbing, possessing or taking eagle parts, including feathers.

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