Eagle Found Shot, Dead in Nest

From the Bradenton Herald, Florida

January 16, 2008

A nesting eagle was shot and killed over the weekend, outraging members of the Audubon Eagle Watch Program in Manatee and Sarasota counties.

The nest, on Lena Road off State Road 64, is normally monitored by birdwatchers.

"As soon as I looked in the nest, I knew something was wrong. Both adults were in the nest. One was laying across the nest with its beak in the twigs. Something just didn't look right," said Tony Brown, 51, of Parrish, who has been watching the nest since October.

The mother was last seen incubating two eggs in the nest about 5 p.m. Saturday. On Sunday, Brown said, she appeared lifeless when he visited the nest about 11 a.m.

"I can't understand why anyone would do something like that to an innocent bird laying on its eggs," he said. "Somebody comes along and shoots it. It's just senseless."

Birdwatchers removed the dead bird using a bucket truck Monday.

"The eggs were just ice cold. Her wings were kind of spread just a little bit. She was laying on her belly. We noticed the wound on her chest," Brown said.

The bird was taken to a veterinarian at Nokomis Veterinary Clinic, where a bullet wound was found in its chest, said Dale Nauman, volunteer coordinator for the program.

He said there has not been an official cause of death through the investigation.

The bird's killing was reported to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The investigator could not be reached by phone Tuesday night.

Bald eagles are no longer considered an endangered animal, however, they are still protected under the Bald and Gold Eagle Protection Act.

"You cannot disturb them when they are nesting. You cannot kill them. You can't own any part of them," said Margie Ford, 45, of Parrish, a member of the Eagle Watch.

The penalty for violating the act is a fine of up to $5,000 or one year in prison, or both. Subsequent convictions can result in up to two years in prison or a fine of $10,000, or both.

Nauman said because the eagle's eggs never hatched as a result of her death, there will be three separate charges in the case.

Up to $2,500 of the fine is given as a reward to whoever helps convict the person violating the act.

In Manatee County, there are about 23 active eagles' nests. Combined with Sarasota County, there are a total of 60 eagle nests.

Nauman, who has been involved with the program for 10 years, said the last time an eagle was shot was a couple of years ago in Myakka City.

This week's shooting, he said, was likely "just a random act of someone with a gun who wanted to shoot something."

As for Brown, he continues to watch the nest. As of Tuesday evening, the male was seen sitting in the tree above the nest.

"If he doesn't take a partner and doesn't come back, I feel one of the other eagles will take the nest," Brown said. "It will be a useful nest again."

Reference Link: http://www.bradenton.com/local/story/330884.html (WARNING: Graphic picture)


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