ROCKY HILL -Despite federal protections, a bald eagle was discovered dead in a meadow near the Connecticut River in Rocky Hill on Dec. 13. And the way it died does not appear to have been a mistake.
A person reported seeing the lifeless bird, which is a threatened species here in Connecticut, along Great Meadow Road. The Humane Society of the United States and The Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust are offering a reward $5,000 reward for any information that leads to the arrest and conviction of an individual or individuals who are responsible. Early on, the cause of death was a mystery.
Then earlier this week the 3-year-old bird was brought to UConn for further examination. UConn officials were unable to determine a manner and cause of death, so the immature bird was sent to the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory in Oregon by the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service.
“Due to some of the injuries of the bird, it did not look like it died of natural causes,” said Col. Kyle Overturf, of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. “We had a great return turnaround time with them and they determined it was killed from a gunshot." Overturf wouldn't reveal the type of gun investigators believe was used.
“We don`t know if it was a hunter, who mistakenly shot the bird or if it was a deliberate act to shoot the bird yet,” added Overturf.
Andy Griswold of the Connecticut Audubon Society says, “The likelihood of such a large bird being misidentified or shot by accident is pretty slim.”
He noted the bald eagles wing span can reach nine feet. He calls this a heinous crime. “This bird not only is protected by state and federal laws, but it's our national symbol,” said Griswold
Since there are two hunting clubs that lease property near the site of the shooting, investigators will no doubt interview leaders and members of the club to piece together who did this.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement and State Environmental Conservation Police are jointly investigating the incident.
The bald eagle is making a comeback in Connecticut, in large part, experts believe, because of the eradication of the chemical DDT in the 1970s. This chemical is thought to have disrupted its egg laying possibilities.
Bald and golden eagles are protected under federal law by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The bald eagle is also listed as a threatened species under the state of Connecticut’s Endangered Species Act.
Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to contact the Environmental Conservation Police’s Emergency Dispatch Center at 860-424-3333 or toll free at 1-800-842-4357 or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent at 860-871-8348.