JUNEAU, Alaska — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is investigating the shooting of a bald eagle near Alaska’s capital city, which led to the protected bird being euthanized.
The injured eagle was rescued Dec. 22 in Juneau, but it was not clear the bird had been shot until the Alaska Raptor Center in Sitka did an X-ray, The Juneau Empire reported Friday.
The bird’s pelvis was shattered and there was mounting lead poisoning from a type of shotgun ammunition that is illegal in Alaska, and it had to be euthanized, Juneau Raptor Center Manager Kathy Benner said.
“We see things like birds getting hit by cars,” Benner said. “When I found out the bird was shot, I was shocked.”
Bald eagles are federally protected animals. Killing one carries penalties of up to a $250,000 fine and a five-year prison sentence for a felony conviction, the Fish and Wildlife Service said.
The agency has offered a $2,500 reward for information leading to the arrest of the shooter.
When a bald eagle is found with a gunshot wound, poisoning or certain other kinds of injuries, the center contacts federal wildlife officials, Benner said.
“This eagle did have significantly elevated lead levels,” Benner said. “It was lead shot. The lead will leach into them, and it’s just a slow, horrible death for the wildlife.”
She said fewer than 10 bald eagles have been brought to the Juneau Raptor Center with gunshot wounds in her two decades there.
“I’ve been doing this for over 20 years,” Benner said. “I’m sure it happens more than what we see, because we only see it when it comes in.”