DECATUR COUNTY, Tenn.— The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are investigating a shooting of a bald eagle in West Tennessee. The injured eagle was reported on December 30 around 3:00 p.m. in Decatur County. The eagle was found off Martins Landing Road in Bath Springs, Tennessee. TWRA Wildlife Officer Brant Luker responded to the call and the bald eagle was transported alive, but injured to the North Madison Animal Hospital on December 31, 2019. After examination, it was determined the eagle had been shot. Injuries sustained were incurable and the animal was euthanized.
Bald eagles historically ranged throughout most of North America. However, for environmental reasons and a lack of regulations, their numbers dwindled in the 1900’s. Bald Eagles were placed on the endangered species list in 1978. Eagle populations recovered after changes in environmental practices and protection and the endangered status was removed in 2007. However, bald eagles are still protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Violations of these statutes carry a maximum criminal penalty of up to $100,000.00 and/or one year in federal prison.
State charges will also apply.
Bald eagles are biparental, meaning it takes both parent birds to raise young. Losing one eagle likely means failure of a nest.
Anglers and bald eagles come into regular contact, though no evidence points to an angler as the perpetrator in this crime. Typically, anglers carry great respect for eagles, who were fishing the waterways of North America long before man casted a line at any of them. In 2014, a Washington fishing vessel accidentally snagged a bald eagle on a flasher, resulting in a remarkable rescue video which you can see here.
In 2017, a pair of bald eagles were shot and killed in East Tennessee, approximately 250 miles east of Decatur County. Bald eagles typically nest between November and mid-February, often returning to the same nest year after year, according to the National Eagle Center.