To Allen H. Thacker, it was simply a matter of protecting his property. But to the federal government, his attack on a national symbol constituted a crime.
On Tuesday, Mr. Thacker, 62, pleaded guilty to shooting a bald eagle and killing it by running it over with an all-terrain vehicle, according to the Department of Justice.
The episode took place in Smithfield, Va., on March 13, when a woman told authorities that she had witnessed a person on a red, all-terrain vehicle run over what appeared to be a bald eagle, circle the bird and repeat the act several times, according to a court filing. She said the individual then dragged the bird from a field into the woods.
Officers with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries responded to the report, but were unable to find the bird. They did, however, find Mr. Thacker on his red A.T.V.
During an interview with the authorities, he admitted to shooting the eagle and led the officers to its body, telling them that the bird was killing small game and taking fish from his pond and that he needed to protect his property, according to court documents.
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