TULSA, OK -- Federal and state officials are trying to find out who killed a young bald eagle found shot in Adair County last month.
The Tulsa Zoo says the eagle died while it was being transported to the zoo's veterinarian hospital.
"This is such a terrible waste and this is not the first time we've assisted in the medical care of bald eagles having been shot or injured in Oklahoma," says Tulsa Zoo veterinarian Dr. Kay Backues.
Zoo officials say the eagles on exhibit at the Tulsa Zoo were found injured in Oklahoma and the severity of their injuries prevented their release back into the wild.
Until recently, bald eagles were considered an endangered species and were offered an extra level of federal protection.
With the efforts of many organizations, like the Sutton Avian Research Center in Oklahoma, bald eagle populations have thrived. Their recovery has been so successful they were taken off the Endangered Species List in 2007. Though Federal protection still exists under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, these birds still face dangers.
"Ignorance and malice are the only explanations for the deliberate killing of these birds, says Backues. "People need to know that bald eagles pose little threat to livestock or other property. We are lucky to live in a state with so much great ‘watchable' wildlife like bald eagles. They are truly awesome birds of prey and a gift to the skies of our state, not a nuisance and anyone who causes them harm should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
Federal statutes state that any person convicted for the first time of willfully causing injury or death to an eagle faces a misdemeanor charge with a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine.
The second offense becomes a felony with a maximum penalty of two years in prison and $250,000 fine.
In cooperation with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, the Tulsa Zoo and Tulsa Zoo Friends have entered into a partnership with the Oxley Nature Center, Friends of Oxley and the Tulsa Audubon Society to offer a $2,000 reward for anyone providing information leading to the arrest and conviction of persons willfully pursuing, harming, harassing, purchasing, taking, killing, possessing, transporting, or importing bald or golden eagles.
If you have information about this eagle shooting, contact the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's "Operation Game Thief" tip line at 1-800-522-8039.