State, federal officials investigate illegal bald eagle shootings

Published: Feb. 27, 2020 at 4:13 PM CST
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State and federal officials investigate the shooting deaths of two bald eagles in Northern Wisconsin.

"We often take it personally. These are our patients, and we don't see the logic," said Marge Gibson, executive director and founder of Raptor Education Group, Inc. (REGI).

Recent numbers from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) show the bald eagle population rising across the state.

"These are not birds that are hunted. These are not birds that are harming anything," said Gibson.

However, the wildlife rehabilitation and education facility reports more bald eagle shootings than they have ever seen before.

"It's frustrating. I guess that that's the thing," said Gibson. "When you see something that's done purposefully, you don't really understand."

This month the Raptor Education Group, Inc. in Antigo treated two bald eagles with gunshot wounds that later died.

The DNR is investigating one of those shootings.

"The bald eagle is no longer under that endangered species classification, but they are protected and primarily under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act," said Lt. Bryan Harrenstein with the DNR. "That is a federal act."

Harrenstein tells Action 2 News the two shootings are not connected.

Gibson and her team look to x-rays for clues about what exactly happened and who could be responsible.

"It's kind of CSI in a way. They can't tell us what's wrong with them," said Gibson.

Just like REGI depends on the public to bring in injured birds, the DNR is also looking to the public for tips that could help them solve this case.

"We oftentimes will find these birds after they've either been injured or shot with nothing real substantial to go on," said Harrenstein.

A necropsy is currently being performed on one of the bald eagles.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is looking into both of the shootings.

The penalty for shooting a bald eagle starts at up to $100,000 in fines and/or 1 year behind bars. The punishment goes up with each offense.

Anyone with information about the bald eagle shootings is asked to call their local DNR office.