Wednesday, March 30, 2011

CROW offering care to eagle shot in Lehigh

It will take some time to heal, but whether an American bald eagle, shot and wounded near Lehigh Acres earlier this month, will ever fly again in the skies above Southwest Florida remains in question.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is seeking the public's assistance in finding whoever shot the mature eagle, while two conservation groups have offered a reward of $3,500 for information leading to an arrest.

According to the FWC, local residents first noticed the eagle on the ground on March 3, near the 3900 block of 20th Street SW in Lehigh Acres. At that time, it was not evident the bird had sustained gunshot wounds. The eagle remained on the ground until March 7, when a concerned citizen realized the bird was injured and took it to the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) on Sanibel, where it is currently recovering.

"The eagle is in our (Intensive Care Unit) right now," Dr. Amber McNamara, clinic director at CROW, said on Tuesday afternoon. "We performed surgery on Day 3 (March 10). The patient is doing well at this point, and our ultimate goal remains release." 

FWC investigator Greg Stanley believes the bird was shot sometime earlier that week, in the general vicinity of where it was rescued. 

“The nearest known bald eagle nest is 3.8 miles from where the bird was rescued, and the injuries to the bird would have prevented it from traveling very far from where it was shot,” Stanley said.

The FWC is investigating the incident, and Stanley hopes someone will come forward with information. 

“This is a callous act that cannot be tolerated," he added. "The bald eagle has recently come off the federal endangered species list and Florida’s imperiled species list as the result of decades of hard work by conservationists and a supportive public."

The Wildlife Alert Reward Association is offering a $1,000 reward in this case, and the Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust has added $2,500.

Intentionally harming a bald eagle is a misdemeanor, punishable under federal law by up to a $100,000 fine and/or up to one year in prison. Anyone with information about this incident should call the Wildlife Alert hotline at 888-404-3922 or report it online'> Those reporting violations may remain anonymous. JEFF LYSIAK

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