The U.S. Department of Justice is reviewing a criminal investigation of a wind-energy farm in southeastern Arizona to determine whether prosecution is warranted in the deaths of a federally protected golden eagle and an endangered bat, according to federal wildlife officials.
A monitoring report indicated that the 15-turbine Red Horse Wind 2 project near Willcox caused the deaths of the eagle and a lesser long-nosed bat during its first year of operation between July of 2015 and 2016, the Arizona Daily Star reported .
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service opened a criminal investigation into the animal deaths, and it was referred to the Justice Department's Environmental and Natural Resources Division in December, said Tamara Kurey, a Wildlife Service special agent.
A division spokeswoman didn't respond to the newspaper's questions about the investigation.
Kurey declined to provide additional details about the case due to the pending investigation but confirmed more animal deaths are involved.
"I'm aware of other fatalities; they are part of the same investigation," Kurey said.
An environmental consultant for the wind-energy company alerted the Wildlife Service that more protected bats died following the wind farm's first year, said Steve Spangle, one of the agency's field supervisors.
The wind farm company works closely with wildlife officials, and it notifies authorities immediately when a protected animal is killed, Red Horse spokesman Todd Fogarty said.
"It is standard procedure for USFWS to investigate the fatalities of any listed species," Fogarty said. "All bird and bat fatalities documented at the project are attributed to collision with wind turbines."