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Indiana wildlife expert on bald eagle killing: ‘It’s sad’

JASPER, Ind. (WISH) — A young bald eagle was shot and killed Saturday near Jasper along a busy rural road, and Indiana Department of Natural Resources officials suspect it was sitting on the ground eating when someone shot it.

Daniel Boritt, executive director of the Indiana Wildlife Federation, said the bird still has white spots on its feathers, which means it was a very young bald eagle, around 3 to 4 years old. He said while the death was disheartening, it was not surprising.

“We don’t always know why people feel the need to shoot all sorts of animals other than to kill them,” Boritt said. “Obviously, we are in a state with a lot of hunting. That’s one thing. You hunt for food, you hunt for sport, but shooting a bald eagle on the side of the road is just malice.”

Boritt said bald eagles have made a great comeback in Indiana but the population needs each young bird to continue to grow.

“It’s really disappointing because this bird never bred. It never put its genes into the population,” Boritt said. “Bald eagles are no longer endangered. There are 350 or so nesting pairs in the state but they are still not common, and it is our national symbol, and it’s sad.”

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources is offering a $500 reward to anyone with information about the killing that leads to an arrest.

Joe Haywood, the Indiana conservation officer on the case, said, “There’s really no sense in it. You know, the whole point of protecting our natural resources is so that future generations have the chance to enjoy them as we did.”

Haywood said a couple witnessed the bird eating roadkill around 2 p.m. Saturday, an hour and a half before it was found dead.

“My assumption was because it still had the raccoon and they were out there feeding on it, it was probably shot while it was out there feeding,” Haywood said.

Haywood said it is illegal to discharge a firearm from a road because it poses a safety risk for other drivers.

It is a crime to kill a bald eagle under the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. People convicted of the crime can be imprisoned for up to a year and be fined up to $100,000.

Anyone with information was asked to contact the headquarters of the Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement District 7 at 812-789-9538 or 800-847-4367.