Four bald eagles—three adults and a juvenile—have been found floating in a lake near Granite Falls in Washington State in an apparent cold-blooded killing, authorities say. The Stillaguamish Tribe has contributed $10,000 to the reward fund for information leading to the apprehension and conviction of those involved.
"The Tribe is shocked and offended at the wanton wastage of wildlife and supports the efforts of state authorities to investigate and prosecute this case," the Stillaguamish said in a statement on January 18.
The Washington Fish and Wildlife Department, along with the Humane Society of the United States and Conservation Northwest are also offering reward money, bringing the total fund to $13,750.
Discovered on January 9, the birds appeared to have been shot out of the trees with a small-caliber rifle, for no apparent reason. Although there are many legitimate ceremonial uses of eagle parts, their talons and feathers were left intact, wildlife officials said.
“I've never seen anything like this in 11 years. It's just egregious,” Sergeant Jennifer Maurstad of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife told KING, Seattle’s NBC affiliate. “I've seen crimes of opportunity but never with eagles.”
The bald eagle has been off the U.S. Endangered Species List since 2007, but killing them carries stiff penalties because they’re protected under other laws. The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act carries a fine of up to $250,000, or two years in prison, NBC News reported, with civil penalties adding thousands more in potential fines, as well as imprisonment. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Lacey Act also protect bald eagles, NBC News said.
The birds have been sent to a lab of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for forensic analysis in hopes of extracting bullets and gathering other evidence that could lead to the culprits, wildlife officials said. They were keeping the exact location of the grisly discovery under wraps while the investigation continues, NBC News said.