A farmer in southwestern Minnesota faces charges that he destroyed more than 1,000 federally protected pelican nests last spring, on land he rents near the town of Minnesota Lake. Craig Staloch will be arraigned Thursday in federal court in St. Paul.
The nests he destroyed belonged to a federally protected species, the American white pelican.
Staloch has admitted to investigators that he broke the eggs and killed the chicks, according to his attorney Jason Kohlmeyer.
"He was confronted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife agent and he admitted he did it," said Kohlmeyer. "It's a guilty with a valid explanation."
Staloch "snapped" when he destroyed the nests and chicks, Kohlmeyer said, because he feared the birds would damage his crop. Staloch believed the pelicans damaged the field last year, and he hoped to to prevent a repeat of that.
Staloch plans to plead not guilty during his court appearance, in hopes of reaching a plea agreement with prosecutors. The maximum penalty in the case is six months in prison. Investigators say 70 percent of the nearly 1,500 nests in the colony were destroyed.