By Lloyd Dolha
A North Shore resident found the mutilated remains of more than 20 bald eagles near the Raven Woods condominium project on the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation (formerly known as the Burrard Band), in North Vancouver.
Julie Bryson-McElwee walked her dog on February 2 when she spotted four dead bald eagles. Looking further, she discovered the remains of three more.
Conservation officials gathered a total of 18 eagle carcasses later that day. They returned the following day and found another eight eagle heads.
Aboriginal leaders from the First Nation expressed their disgust and resentment at inferences of their involvement in the grisly incident.
The eagles’ wing and tail feathers were mostly gone and their talons were cut off.
“Whoever did this is not familiar with Tsleil-Wauth traditions,” said Leonard George, chief negotiator for the First Nation. “Our people honour the eagle. We honour its spirit through our ceremonies, our crests, our stories and our songs. Coast Salish culture, all First Nations’ culture teaches us to respect nature.”
Chie Maureen Thomas said that the Tsleil-Waututh community is in shock over the incident. Thomas called on all members of the First Nation and local residents of the North Shore to come forward with any relevant information that may assist in the investigation.
She also said that the First Nation will cooperate with law enforcement and wildlife officials to help identify and prosecute the persons responsible for the horrific crime against nature.
Bald eagles are not considered an endangered species but are protected by the British Columbia Wildlife Act. It is illegal to hunt or possess bald eagles and violators face fines of up to $50,000.
Each fall, thousands of eagles gather on lower mainland riverbanks to feed on spawning salmon.
“This is a tragic occurrence,” said Leah George, director of Treaty, Lands and Resources, for the First Nation. “It saddens us to see such a blatant display of disrespect and cruelty. It appears these animals were killed for their claws and tail feathers, and then dumped near our community. Unfortunately for us, their actions may be interpreted by some people as reflective of aboriginal people.”
The investigation into the tragic incident continues. Eagle remains are highly prized by all First Nations people and conservation officials usually give any dead eagles found in the wild to local First Nations.