The Utah Court of Appeals has taken under advisement a Centerville man's petition seeking to have his 1987 conviction for killing a mallard duck with his peregrine falcon overturned.
Attorney Kenneth Okazaki, representing Steven Chindgren, 37, told the three-judge appellate panel that the state code under which Chindgren was charged says it is unlawful for a person to take any protected wildlife or to permit their dog to take protected wildlife."He was charged under the wrong thing," Okazaki said. "He was convicted of the wrong thing. The elements of the crime were not met. This conviction should be overturned."
But Brian Namba, a Davis County deputy prosecutor, told the judges Wednesday that the June 22, 1987, conviction should stand because a falcon, in this case, is comparable to a hunting dog.
He told the judges that Chindgren, senior keeper at Tracy Aviary in Salt Lake City, used his young peregrine falcon as a person would use a hunting dog to capture the duck.
Namba told the judges that the incident, which occurred in August 1986 at the West Layton LDS Stake Farm, was in a field where more than 500 ducks were nesting on the ground, a number Chindgren adamantly denied after the hearing.
Okazaki told the judges that if Chindgren were using his falcon to hunt, he would not have first walked through the field scaring the ducks away. He said mallard ducks normally can outfly peregrine falcons.
He said Chindgren went there to train the raptor to hunt by teaching it to strike at a homing pigeon, which he had taken to the field. When the pigeon was released, however, Chindgren lost control of the falcon, which pursued and killed a mallard duck instead of the pigeon, Okazaki said.
Although the conviction was no more than a Class B misdemeanor, he said he is fighting it because such a conviction would be grounds to take away his falconry license.
As a means of earning extra income, he breeds and trains falcons. He is a member and former Mountain Region director of the North American Falconers Association.