MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WBOY) — A bald eagle found with a gunshot wound on New Year’s Eve has had its wing amputated.
The eagle was found by a Department of Natural Resources officer and taken to Cheat Lake Animal Hospital, where doctors decided to amputate the wing from the elbow down.
“It was almost shot off, just kind of hanging by soft tissue,” said Katie Fallon, executive director of the Avian Conservation Center of Appalachia.
Fallon said authorities think the eagle was downed for up to a week before it was located by the DNR officer. It was extremely emaciated and showed signs of infection.
Dr. Jesse Fallon, the director of veterinary medicine for the ACCA and Katie Fallon’s husband, said amputating the wing was the best decision. Even though the bird will be handicapped and unable to return to the wild, they think it can still be saved and live the rest of its life in a zoo or education center.
The wound is believed to have been caused by a gunshot because x-rays showed metal fragments inside the damaged wing.
The shooting, capturing or killing of bald eagles is a violation of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and can result in a fine of up to $100,000, imprisonment for one year, or both, for a first offense, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Jesse Fallon said they have been in communication with the DNR to help find the person responsible.
“As soon as we got the data about the bird and found the injury, we provided [WVDNR] with all the information we had, the location of capture, the nature of injury, how the bird was doing, and sort of passed it off to the professionals to hopefully pursue and potentially find the perpetrator,” he said.
While rare, it is not unheard of for birds to be treated for gunshot wounds at the Cheat Lake Animal Hospital, which treats about 500 to 600 birds every year. About 50 different species are native to the area, including bald eagles, cardinals, falcons and sparrows.