April 13, 2024

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Fish and Wildlife Service Awarded Whistleblowers for Exposing Killers of Gray Wolf and Grizzly Bear and Illegal Possession of Bird Parts

Washington, D.C. October 18, 2023. In recent years, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has granted twenty-one monetary awards to whistleblowers who have assisted in investigations by the agency. According to documents obtained in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by Whistleblower Network News (WNN), awarded whistleblowers have allowed FWS to successfully identify the killers of a gray wolf and a grizzly bear as well as an individual in illegal possession of an eagle talon and other bird parts.

In 2019, FWS awarded $5,000 each to two whistleblowers who separately voluntarily provided information about the killer of an endangered gray wolf in Oregon (OR-28). FWS noted that “The success in the OR 28 case was directly related to the information provided as a result of the reward offer.” 

That year, FWS also granted a $2,000 whistleblower award to a whistleblower who identified the killer of a grizzly bear in Wyoming. In FWS’ request for the award payment, an agent wrote: “Without the cooperation [of the whistleblower], this investigation would not have reached a successful outcome and would not have led to the federal convictions of [those] who were responsible for killing the federally threatened grizzly bear.”

In 2020, FWS awarded a whistleblower who blew the whistle on an individual in illegal possession of a golden eagle talon and other bird parts. “Despite [the defendant] having been deemed a dangerous individual, [the whistleblower] was determined to turn over the wildlife parts to the Service,” wrote a FWS agent.

FWS has never publicly acknowledged these whistleblower award payments. In contrast, other agencies with whistleblower award programs, such as the SEC, widely publicize whistleblower award payments.

“It is a missed opportunity to not publicize successful whistleblower awards,” says whistleblower attorney Stephen M. Kohna leading expert on wildlife whistleblower law. “Highlighting award payments is a crucial way to inform the public about the opportunity to receive an award in exchange for voluntarily providing key information about wildlife crimes.”

WNN’s exclusive reporting on the FWS’s Whistleblower Program covers its overall use of whistleblower awards as well as the details of specific cases aided by whistleblowers. Read the complete series of articles at Whistleblower Network News.

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