Authorities in Iowa are seeking the killer or killers of a golden eagle that was found shot in the northwestern part of the state late last week.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources said the eagle was killed either on Tuesday February 18 or early on Wednesday the 19th, according to an announcement on the Lock Up: Sioux City Facebook page, which consists of messages from the Iowa municipality’s police blotter.
“There have been other cases of eagles recently shot in western Iowa and eastern Nebraska by what appears to be an organized group of individuals looking to sell them on the black market,” the notice said. “Harrison County residents are encouraged to report any activity that may lead to the arrest and/or conviction of these poachers.”
However this does not appear to be a poaching incident, a state wildlife official told KETV in Omaha, Nebraska, because the perpetrator did not climb the tree to retrieve the majestic bird, which authorities found in Woodbine, near the Nebraska border.
“There’s no reason for someone to go out and shoot such a beautiful bird such as that,” said David Tierney, a state conservation officer with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, to KETV. “It’s a homicide with wildlife, and that’s how we investigate it.”
He told the television station that the crime, though classified as a simple misdemeanor for a first offense, carries a $250,000 fine and one year in jail. He said the natural resources department is offering a $2,500 reward for information leading to the killers. Authorities are encouraging anyone with information to contact the state’s Turn In Poachers hotline at 1-800-532-2020 or report it confidentially online.
Golden eagles are not common in western Iowa, KETV noted, though they and the bald eagle are protected under both federal and state law. Bald eagles are known to winter in Iowa, according to the Department of Natural Resources.
“The Mississippi from Fort Madison to Keokuk reported as many as 2,300 eagles,” the department said in a statement on January 28. “During Keokuk’s Annual Bald Eagle Appreciation Days, upwards of 900 eagles were in the area, many perched on the giant cottonwoods and oaks along the bluffs.”
In an unrelated incident, two teens were charged in mid-February for shooting a bald eagle in eastern Iowa, first striking the one-year-old bird in the wing, which broke two bones and knocked it out of a tree, then firing on the wounded creature as it lay on the ground. That second bullet “entered the bird’s back, went through the spine and left lung, and lodged inside the bird,” officials told the Des Moines Register.
The teens were not identified, and it was unclear whether they knew what they were shooting at, officials said.
“I would hope that by publicizing this we are able to educate the public so it doesn’t happen again,” said K.C. Cornish, the veterinarian who cared for the bird, to the Des Moines Register.