Here's What Happens If You Kill A Bald Eagle

If Benjamin Franklin had his way, the United States' national bird would also be its tastiest. As the Ben Franklin Institute explains, Franklin believed the turkey, the official hand-shaped mascot of Thanksgiving, should be the official symbol of America. In a letter to his daughter, he lauded the gobbler as "a much more respectable bird" than the bald eagle, which he denounced as "a bird of bad moral character." "He does not get his living honestly," complained Franklin, but instead steals fish from the "diligent" fishing hawk and behaves like "a rank coward," allowing smaller birds to bully it.

No matter how much Franklin panned the bald eagle, the tasty patriotism of the turkey would condemn that noble poultry to the roasting pan. Meanwhile, the eagle has landed the position of America's top bird and received special legal protections from Uncle Sam. That thought must haunt Franklin's ghost more than gout tormented him in life. On the bright side, nobody knows better than Benjamin Franklin that every bald eagle will one day be taxed to death. But what if you wanted to honor Gouty McLightning-Kite's memory by killing one and then serving it to your pet turkey?

Illegal eagle

If you kill a bald eagle, you'll ironically need a legal eagle to save you. As described by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the 1940 Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act makes it a crime to "shoot, shoot at, poison, wound, kill, capture, trap, collect, molest or disturb" the birds, their eggs and their nests. In 1972, Uncle Sam toughened the law, imposing a $5,000 fine or one year behind bars for civil violations. If eagle killing is your version of Pringles, and you can't stop once you pop one, you'll get slapped with a $10,000 or up to two years in prison. A felony conviction gets you two years or a $25,000 fine. For organizations found guilty of such offenses, the punishment doubles.

Bald eagles are also protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, an international agreement between several nations to protect the birds. So even if you were desperate enough to smuggle a bald eagle into Canada, Mexico, Russia, or Japan for the sole purpose of murdering it, the law would not be on your side. For a long time, bald eagles also found themselves on the Endangered Species list because of rampant habitat loss, shooting, and the devastating pesticide DDT. To the likely dismay of Benjamin Franklin's ghost, the creature's recuperated. Meanwhile, turkeys remain on the list of species endangered by their own tastiness.