A bald eagle. (Barbara Houston)

A bald eagle had been eating fish from his pond and hunting small game on his property in Smithfield, Va., and Allen Thacker was not pleased.

So on March 13, the 62-year-old tried to scare the bird away with a warning shot from his Remington .22 caliber rifle, according to court records. When that failed, he shot to kill.

But the adult male eagle, shot through the pelvis and the left wing, was still alive. So Thacker then drove over the bald eagle, an official national symbol of the United States, with his red Yamaha Big Bear all-terrain vehicle.

At first Thacker denied killing the eagle, according to prosecutors. But a witness saw Thacker circle and run over the eagle at least three or four times and then drag the bird into the woods.

So Thacker ultimately acknowledged what he had done and took investigators from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries Conservation to the body of the bird.

According to court documents, Thacker later told agents with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service “that too much emphasis is placed on bald eagle protection because the birds are a menace and . . . that people with whom he associates feel the same way.”

Thacker pleaded guilty Tuesday in Norfolk federal court to violating the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. He faces up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine.

He must also hand over to the government the rifle and $960, or half the value of the ATV, according to a forfeiture order.

An attorney for Thacker did not immediately return a request for comment.