Bald eagles shot in Meigs and Rhea counties

Wednesday, February 15, 2017
Dr. Patrick Sullivan, Avian and Exotics Resident and fourth-year veterinary student Timothy Pearson from the Avian and Exotics service at the University of Tennessee Veterinary Medical Center examine the bald eagle.
Avian and Exotics service at the University of Tennessee Veterinary Medical Center.

CROSSVILLE, --- Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are investigating the shooting of two bald eagles in the Tennessee River Valley. The first injured eagle was reported on January 30 around 2:00 p.m. in Meigs County. TWRA Wildlife Sergeant Chris Combs responded to the call and found the bald eagle alive, but injured off of State Route 68 near State Route 58. The female eagle was transported to the Avian and Exotics service at the University of Tennessee Veterinary Medical Center. After examination, it was determined the eagle had been shot with size eight to eleven shotgun pellets. It was also determined the eagle had been shot up to one week prior to the report. Injuries sustained were incurable and the animal was euthanized.

The second eagle was reported after noon on February 1. TWRA Yuchi Refuge Manager Bernie Swiney responded to find the eagle on the side of Abby Lane, just north of Highway 60 in Rhea County. Swiney found the eagle alive but in poor condition. This bird was also transported to the Avian and Exotics service at the University of Tennessee Veterinary Medical Center. An suspected entrance and exit wound were found and thought to be caused by gunshot. Injuries sustained were incurable and the animal was euthanized.

Tennessee currently has 200 active bald eagle nests. Bald eagles historically ranged throughout most of North America. However for environmental reasons and a lack of regulations, their numbers dwindled in the 1900s. 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.

University of Tennessee Veterinary Medical Center radiograph reveals pellets.
Photo courtesy of Avian and Exotics service at the University of Tennessee Veterinary Medical Center.

Bald eagles are biparental, meaning it takes both parent birds to raise young. Losing one eagle likely means failure of a nest. Wildlife Sergeant Chris Combs shared, We are especially angered by these actions because it is nesting season. This is our national symbol and its an atrocity to see them senselessly shot. Anyone with knowledge regarding these two shootings is asked to contact the TWRA, Region III office at 931-484-9571 or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at: 615-736-5532.