A female bald eagle is now at the Tulsa Zoo’s hospital, with a bandage on her right wing, after sitting still for days and becoming dehydrated.
Tulsa Zoo Senior Staff Veterinarian Kay Backues said an Oklahoma Game Warden brought the bird to the zoo Sunday, and estimates it was shot about a week ago.
She said x-rays show where bullet shrapnel sits in the eagle's wing. The animal has two fractures, and soft tissue trauma. Backues is confident the eagle was shot on purpose.
“Her chances of being re-released to the wild are very guarded,” she said.
Backues said the bald eagle is expected to survive, but her injuries are so severe, it’s possible she may never fly again.
"It is upsetting. This is our national symbol. This was a bird that was endangered for decades and has come back and been really a conservation success story,” she said.
"It's disheartening,” Oklahoma Game Warden Jason Adair said. “You want to try to help the thing, but at the same time you don't want to hurt it any more than what it already is."
Adair was part of the team that rescued the bird just west of Miami, along state Highway 10. He and a state park officer tried to catch the bird as it was perched on a tree. But Adair said she jumped into a pond and swam to another log.
A fisheries technician who lived nearby went in the water to rescue her.
"We tied a rope to him, because I didn't know how deep that pond was,” Adair said. “And he waded out there in the water and fortunate enough for us, he caught the thing and brought it back to shore."
Adair said a family called Saturday night with concerns about the eagle, after it didn’t move for a couple of days. He encourages anyone who may encounter something similar to call a game warden, too.
Backues said the saddest part of the situation is knowing this is the time of year when eagles in Oklahoma are nesting, and the eagle may have helpless young chicks left behind in her nest.
"She either has eggs that are just now hatching, or young chicks in the nest. And there's really no way her mate's going to be able to defend the nest, keep them warm and find food for them,” Backues said. “So not only are her chances of survival iffy, but I can almost guarantee you that her offspring this year will die."
It is a federal crime to kill a bald eagle. If you have any idea who shot the bird, call Operation Game Thief Hotline at 800-522-8039, or call Adair at (918) 533-2679.