March 7, 2013

Eagle feathers, meth add up to jail time

From Staff Reports

— A Young Harris man who was arrested for having eagle feathers in the Coosawattee Wildlife Management Area (WMA) near Carters Lake was sentenced to probation, a court officer said.

Daniel Roy McGaha, 31, pleaded guilty in Murray County Superior Court earlier this year to possession of eagle feathers and one count of violation of the Georgia Controlled Substances Act.

Judge William Boyett sentenced McGaha to 12 months probation on the eagle feathers charge and 90 days in jail and five years probation, a $2,000 fine and 300 hours of community service on the drug charge, said Assistant District Attorney Scott Minter.

Approximately one-fourth of the Coosawattee WMA is in Murray County with the remainder in Gilmer County, according to a Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) map.

McGaha was arrested last June. Sgt. John VanLandingham with the DNR had sensed something was up when he saw a couple near a bald eagle nesting site.

“I began to walk down a trail in the direction of where the bald eagles are known to nest when I observed a male and a female subject walking toward me,” VanLandingham said close to the time of the incident. “The female subject was carrying several bald eagle feathers and the male subject was carrying a couple of coolers.”

VanLandingham said he had already noticed a vehicle parked in a way that looked like the driver was trying to conceal it. He “ran the tag” of the vehicle and found it belonged to McGaha.

“I advised them it was illegal to possess the feathers or any other part of an eagle, and I took the feathers from her,” VanLandingham said in an incident report. “They both stated they didn’t know it was illegal to collect the feathers.”

VanLandingham was asked if there had been problems at the bald eagle nesting site before.

“No major problems,” he replied. “We can see where people have been in and out of the area from time to time, but we haven’t seen anybody in there in awhile ... this is a little bit different than what we normally run into.”