We have often pondered legal cases that allow people who have blatantly committed acts of cruelty or abuse against animals to walk free. Despite the fact that there are legal protections in place that ensure domestic animals and even wild animals have some form of protection under the law (no matter how unsatisfactory you might think they are), we still see cases where injustice against animals wins.

However, we have recently come across a case that we just simply can’t wrap our brains around … an Illinois man is being put on trial for rescuing two injured bald eagle eaglets. WHAT?!

In May of 2013, LaSalle County, Illinois was hit with a bad storm that damaged an eagle nest. Two eaglets fell from the nest and were left injured on the ground. Steve Patterson, a wildlife photographer, came across these injured birds and made multiple calls to the local conservation police and Department of Natural Resources.

It is important for us to note that if you ever find an injured wild animal, you should follow this example and contact a professional for help – do not attempt to rescue the animals on your own!

However, four days later, no one had come to retrieve the eaglets, so Patterson brought the injured birds inside and contacted a wildlife rehabilitation center, Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation.

Volunteers from the center soon came to get the eaglets. A few days later, Patterson was charged with two counts of illegally taking two birds of prey and two counts of taking a protected species and keeping it alive. Patterson is facing up to a year in prison and a fine of up to $2,500 for each of the four misdemeanor charges for violating the Illinois Wildlife Code.

This law is designed to prevent people from attempting to interfere with delicate wildlife populations. While this law protects animals from being taken in as pets or being hunted or harassed in anyway, it seems unusual that aiding in the rescue of wildlife falls under these same lines.

Patterson has been in and out of court since June of 2013 and will face another trial in February. However, Representative, Bob Pritchard is filing a bill to amend the code that would, “allow any person who finds an injured, sick, or crippled wild animal to lawfully take possession of it and take it to a qualified rehab facility.”

La Salle County State’s Attorney Brian Towne is set on pursuing the case against Patterson because he has a previous record for tampering with wildlife in Wisconsin and other run-ins with conservation police in the past.

There is a federal Good Samaritan protection law that would help Patterson, however it is not available under Illinois law. A petition is currently circulating asking Towne to drop the charges against Patterson. If you are compelled to sign in Patterson’s defense, click here.

Sam, one of the injured eaglets has been successfully released back into the wildClick here to see the video of his release. While the story ended happily for the eaglets, it might not be so positive for the man who helped save them. Where does the line between lending a hand and interfering start?

This story certainly shows us how seriously protections for wildlife should be taken. If you find yourself in a situation where you find a wild animal who is in need of help, check out this list of rescue hotlines. Remember never try to rehabilitate an animal if you are not a professional.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons