Prognosis ‘guarded’ for wounded bald eagle

The bald eagle, likely wounded about a week ago, was found near Gaston

A bald eagle was apparently shot near Gaston, Oregon on June 28, 2017. (Portland Audobon Society)
A bald eagle was apparently shot near Gaston, Oregon on June 28, 2017. (Portland Audobon Society)

GASTON, Ore. (KOIN) — An adult male bald eagle was shot near Gaston recently, and the prognosis is “guarded” for this living symbol of our nation.

The wounded bird was first reported about a week ago, but the Audubon Society said he stayed too high in a tree to reach. Oregon State Police troopers went to an area north of Gaston Wednesday morning for the bald eagle and followed it through thick brush, a swampy marsh area and through a field before capturing it.

The bald eagle, native to North America, was chosen as the national bird symbol of the United States in 1782.

Lacy Campbell, the wildlife care manager for the Audubon Society, said the eagle, named 1288-17, is at least 4 to 5 years old.

“When I did a physical exam I felt some swelling around the right shoulder and some wounds that I thought might be bullet entry wounds,” Campbell told KOIN 6 News. An X-ray revealed metal fragments with the entry and exit wounds.

“I definitely think this was intentional. There’s no mistaking an adult bald eagle — bright white head, bright white tail,” she said. “Everybody knows what a bald eagle looks like. It’s our nation’s symbol.”

She believes this eagle was likely on a nest with a female eagle and helping to care for their eaglets. “With this bird out recuperating we don’t know what’s going on with that nest,” she said.

The eagle was wounded about a week ago, they believe.

“It’s a pretty guarded prognosis” whether the eagle will survive, she said. The bird hasn’t been eating since being shot and has lost weight.

“We are treating with antibiotics and we’re treating with pain medication,” Campbell told KOIN 6 News. “It’s a little too early to tell about what’s going to happen. The next 24 to 48 hours are pretty critical.”

If 1288-17 does survive, Campbell said it’s unclear whether he’ll ever fly again. “Shoulder injuries are not good injuries for birds.”

It’s possible the eagle may have to remain in captivity. “If it’s unable to be released in the wild, then we have to look at our other options.”

Bald eagles are federally protected under various acts

A bald eagle was apparently shot near Gaston, Oregon on June 28, 2017. (Portland Audobon Society)
A bald eagle was apparently shot near Gaston, Oregon on June 28, 2017. (Portland Audobon Society)

The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act includes penalties of a $5000 fine and a year in prison for civil infractions and a $250,000 fine or 2 years in prison for a felony conviction. Similar penalties are established under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

The Lacey Act, passed in 1900, is harsher. Penalties include a 5-year prison term and $250,000 fine for a felony, or a $10,000 fine for civil violations.

Campbell said birds being shot happens too frequently. “We do see a lot of birds that come in that have been shot, anything from great blue herons to bald eagles.” But she still doesn’t know why someone would shoot a bald eagle.

“I don’t know why people shoot eagles. It could be to shoot an eagle, it could be to harvest parts off them. There is a market for eagle parts. But, yeah, it’s kind of unfathomable.”

She also noted the timing of this shooting.

“It’s unfortunate that it also happened around the 4th of July. This bird is a symbol of our nation of freedom. And now it may not be able to fly in the wild.”

Investigators are asking anyone with information about the incident to call Senior Trooper Mike VanRenterghem or Trooper Tayler Jerome at 800.452.7888 or the US Fish and Wildlife Service at 503.682.6131.