Wednesday, December 3, 2008

DNR Seeks Details on Eagle Shooting Near Tifton

Wanted: Information on the shooting of a young bald eagle last month near Paradise Public Fishing Area.

Matt Henry of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources found the wounded bird caught in a fence Nov. 19 at the PFA near Tifton. He and Paradise manager Charles West used fishnets to carefully capture the eagle, a large juvenile that had not developed the characteristic solid white feathers on its head and tail. Natural resources technician Chris Carlisle transported it to Auburn University’s Southeastern Raptor Center.

Center Director Jamie Bellah recently described the eagle’s condition as stable but said “it’s going to take some time” before it’s known whether the injuries will heal enough so the bird can be released.

The bullet, apparently from a rifle, partially fractured the bone closest to the body in the left wing, said Liz Crandall, a technician at the center. A CT scan planned this week will show whether the pectoral girdle also has been fractured. If so, Crandall said these injuries could limit the wing’s range of motion and threaten the eagle’s ability to fly freely again.

The healing process will take months, she said.

In the meantime, officials are encouraging anyone who knows details about the shooting to speak up. “Someone has committed a crime,” said Col. Terry West, law enforcement chief for the DNR Georgia Wildlife Resources Division. “But without any further information, we would have no other leads to go on.”

Bald eagles are protected by state and federal law. Anyone with information about the shooting can call the Turn In Poachers hotline, 1-800-241-4113, or e-mail Callers can remain anonymous. Rewards are paid for calls that lead to an arrest.

Conservation laws, restoration work and a ban on the pesticide DDT have helped the bald eagle recover from near-extinction through much of its range 40 years ago. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service took the species off the federally threatened list in August 2007. This American symbol and subject of one of Georgia’s nongame wildlife license plates is still protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, and other federal and state legislation.

Bald eagles have steadily increased in Georgia, surging from fewer than 10 pairs in the 1980s to more than 110 this year. They have been seen for years at Paradise, which features 68 lakes eight miles east of Tifton.

“We normally begin seeing eagles in September at Paradise PFA,” said West, the area manager. “Sightings are more frequent in the winter months, although eagles can be spotted all the way into early summer.”

The hope is that the young bald eagle recuperating at Auburn can one day join them.

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