Bald eagle found shot in Enumclaw
Editor’s note: This is an ongoing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.
If possible, a grounded bald eagle will use its powerful legs to escape danger.
So when David Ward, a local licensed raptor rehabilitator with the non-profit bird rescue organization Featherhaven, saw one trying to pull itself to the ground with its wings, he knew this wasn’t a typical case of a bird of prey. hurt.
Ward received a report from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife of the eagle, located in west Enumclaw, on the afternoon of March 3. WDFW knows Featherhaven well, being the only bird rehabilitation center around for at least 50 miles (the next two closest are in Olympia and Bainbridge Island) and has cared for hundreds of raptors since opening in 2014.
Within an hour, he and the bird arrived at Pine Tree Veterinary Hospital in Maple Valley to assess his situation.
Prognosis: not good.
“We found … a wound on the shoulder of the right ventricle, fresh,” Ward said. “We did a series of X-rays, which showed [a] bullet in the caudal abdomen on the right side.”
The bullet was deformed, which can be caused when it comes into contact with soft tissue, Ward continued — but more than likely, it hit the spine, rendering the eagle paralyzed from the proverbial waist down.
It was determined by Ward and two other experts that the chances of the eagle recovering were extremely low — “less than 5%,” he said, given that no one specializes in bald eagle spine surgery — so that she was humanely euthanized that evening.
The eagle has since been turned over to the federal government, as any attempt to disturb a bald eagle in any way, from plucking feathers to attempting to shoot — let alone kill — is a first-offense, punishable misdemeanor with a fine of up to $100,000. and/or one year in prison.
Any other violation would result in a felony charge, which could result in a fine of up to $250,000.
According to Ward, the US Fish and Wildlife Service will conduct its own forensic investigation and may open an investigation into the eagle’s death.
That’s why Ward wanted the public to know about the incident, in hopes that someone with some kind of knowledge about the incident would come forward to help law enforcement.
“I’m fat,” he said, calling the shooting “illogical.” “… I don’t care if it’s on your cow. You can’t do that.”
It is unclear how often bald eagles, which are no longer a threatened or endangered species, are shot each year and how often such incidents are investigated and lead to charges or convictions; A Dover, Ohio man was sentenced to one year of probation and a $5,500 fine last October as law enforcement in Wisconsin and West Virginia launched their own investigations into bald eagle shootings around the turn of the new year.
Bald eagles are known as opportunistic eaters – for example, they tend to use the least amount of energy to consume the 6 kilograms of food they eat per day. Their diet often consists of carrion and fish, but they also hunt small mammals, which may include domestic animals and other birds. They have occasionally been known to kill deer, calves or sheep if necessary.
Enumclaw has a history of bald eagles in the area. In 2009, eight eagles became ill and died after eating a euthanized horse that had not been buried. Additionally, some fireworks displays between 2010 and 2017 were due to bald eagles nesting or their eggs, and official fireworks displays have not returned due to eagles since 2017.
HOW TO PROTECT LOCAL RESIDENTS
It’s unusual for raptors to be shot, but there are many other more common, and perhaps less obvious, ways people can harm birds, Ward said.
Lead poisoning is a big problem. Since bald eagles will hunt injured waterfowl or guts left over from a hunted deer, they may end up eating another bird that was shot with lead ammunition.
“As populations grow, suitable habitat for eagles near rivers is becoming increasingly rare, so they are moving inland and their diet is changing from being mostly fish to scavenging and eating corpses,” Alex Wehrung, a spokesman. for the Virginia Wildlife Center told the Washington Post about the eagles they needed to care for. “As a result, we are seeing more cases of positive lead toxicity in their blood. A lead fragment the size of a grain of rice is enough to kill a healthy bald eagle.”
Other poisons for rats and other small mammals can also be a problem, Ward said.
Ward himself has rescued several predators from netting, like what you’d find in a football post of what people use to keep their chickens or ducks contained.
He recommends strong wire for small animal pens, so any predators trying to grab a snack don’t get tangled up.
Finally, Ward said don’t throw food away when you’re driving, as food attracts rodents and small mammals, which in turn bring their predators and put them in harm’s way for passing vehicles.
He recalled one time he pulled a raptor from the grill of a car after it continued to drive for another six miles.
The bullet that hit the bald eagle was deformed, which could mean it struck the bird’s spine and paralyzed it. Photo by Featherhaven/David Ward
Photo by Featherhaven/David Ward