What kind of sicko would shoot down our national symbol?
That is exactly what police and wildlife officials in Pennsylvania want to know. Last week, a cowardly gunman shot and killed a bald eagle in Pennsylvania and could face heavy fines and years in prison for the offense, authorities said.
A state game warden found the mature eagle shot Thursday night near Hope Cemetery in Elk Creek Township, the Pennsylvania Game Commission said in a statement posted released on Social Media.
While the majestic bird of prey — heralded since 1782 as the national emblem of the United States — was removed from the endangered species list in 2007, it’s still protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Lacey Act. Various other state and municipal laws also protect the bald eagle.
Killing, selling or possessing a bald eagle without a permit can carry fines of up to thousands of dollars and two years behind bars.
Eagles Have a History of Being Attacked
Despite being revered as our nation’s symbol of strength and courage, the bald eagle has been one of the most persecuted birds in the country, the Gaming Commission said on its website.
“Early publications accused bald eagles of preying upon game and farm animals and they were routinely shot on sight,” the commission said. “Even respected ornithologists and naturalists voiced their negative assessments of the character and value of eagles.”
The national bird ended up on the endangered species list largely because of the pesticide DDT, which caused its population to rapidly decline in the first half of the 20th century. DDT was not banned until 1972.
Today, the birds are vulnerable to cars, power lines and poisons like lead and rodenticide, Crystal Slusher of the American Eagle Foundation told CNN. But hunting and poaching is usually not a major threat to the current eagle population.
“It’s puzzling why anyone would want to shoot the national bird,” Slusher told CNN. “It’s a prominent symbol of the United States, and laws were passed to protect it. It once faced an inevitable destruction, and seeing it being shot for no reason doesn’t make sense.”
Pennsylvania authorities are urging anyone with information on the shooting to come forward and contact the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Northwest Region Office at 814-432-3187 or the Operation Game Thief Hotline at 1-888-PGC-8001.