Conserving the Nature of America

News Release

Reward Offered in Bald Eagle Death

January 27, 2005


Division of Public Affairs
External Affairs
Telephone: 703-358-2220

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An adult bald eagle was found shot and killed Monday and hanging from a tree branch in a field about one mile north of Sprague, Washington, just off Highway 231. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services Upper Columbia Office in Spokane received a call from a citizen who saw the eagle hanging in a tree, and biologists were sent to the scene. The eagle was found dead, hanging by one talon, about 35 feet above the ground. Biologists recovered the carcass and placed it in storage to be examined and used as evidence.

Special agents from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are investigating, and a reward of up to $2,500 is being offered for information leading to the arrest/and or conviction of the person or persons responsible. Anyone with information about the eagle's death is asked to call Special Agent Steve Magone, at 928-6050.

There have been 6 eagle shootings in northeastern Washington reported to the Fish and Wildlife Service since January of 2002, with two resulting in fatal injuries.

Bald eagles are federally protected under the Endangered Species Act as a threatened species throughout the lower 48 U.S. states and it is illegal to harm or kill them. They also are protected throughout the United States under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. Wildlife experts believe there may have been 100,000 nesting bald eagles in the lower 48 states when the bird was adopted as our national symbol in 1782. Since that time, the bald eagle has suffered from habitat destruction and degradation, illegal shooting, and contamination of its food source, most notably due to the pesticide DDT. By the early 1960s there were fewer than 450 bald eagle nesting pairs in the lower 48 states.

Male bald eagles generally measure 3 feet from head to tail, weigh 7 to 10 pounds, and have a wingspan of about 6 1/2 feet. Females are larger, some reaching 14 pounds and having a wingspan of up to 8 feet. This striking brown and white raptor has large, pale eyes; a powerful yellow beak; and feet with great, black talons. The distinctive white head and tail feathers appear only after the bird is 4 to 5 years old.

Bald eagles are believed to live 30 years or longer in the wild, and even longer in captivity. They mate for life and build huge nests in the tops of large trees near rivers, lakes, marshes, or other aquatic areas. Nests are often re-used year after year. With additions to the nests made annually, some may reach 10 feet across and weigh as much as 4,000 pounds. Although bald eagles may range over great distances, they usually return to nest within 100 miles of where they were raised.

Bald eagles normally lay two to three eggs once a year and the eggs hatch after about 35 days. The young eagles are flying within 3 months and are on their own about a month later. However, disease, lack of food, bad weather, or human interference can kill many eaglets; sometimes only about half will survive their first year.

The staple food of most bald eagle diets is fish, but they will feed on almost anything they can catch, including ducks, rodents, and snakes. They will also eat carrion. In winter, northern birds migrate south and gather in large numbers near open water areas where fish and other prey are plentiful.

The Service first proposed to remove the bald eagle from the protections of the Endangered Species Act in 1999 due to its recovery. Since then, the Service has spent time responding to the public comments received to determine the best ways to manage for the species once it is removed.

"The bald eagle is certainly the most treasured species in the United States and its recovery is a great success story," said Steve Williams, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "We have taken the time over the past few years to make sure that we have the proper management guidelines in place for a smooth transition off of the endangered species list for our national symbol."

Should the bald eagle be removed from the list of threatened and endangered species, it will be managed under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.

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