Eagle found shot in Derry Township euthanized
A bald eagle found shot Friday on the West Penn Trail had to be euthanized, state Game Warden Bill Brehun said Monday.
The investigation is very active with a number of individuals who have been interviewed, Brehun said late Monday.
The eagle was still alive when it was found Friday in Derry Township. Brehun said the bird had been shot with a firearm on Thursday or Friday.
A small caliber rifle appeared to have been used, Game Warden Supervisor Patrick Snickles said.
The eagle — an older, mature male — had to be euthanized because of the injuries to his skull, Brehun said.
West Penn Trail Council member Cliff Wissinger of Derry Township discovered the bird Friday late afternoon.
Wissinger saw a large black bird on the trail and thought it might be a turkey vulture.
As he got closer, the bird popped out his white head from his wing. “He looked at me, he gave me a ‘yelp,’” Wissinger said.
That’s when he saw the blood on the part of beak and the bird’s white neck. With his cell phone in hand, Wissinger started making calls. The bird just stood there. Then it flew just 15 feet away up on a bank and stayed until Brehun arrived.
Brehun grabbed the bird from behind. “The bird was not aware of what going on,” he said. Given the hole through its skull, he said, ‘I thought it was amazing the eagle was still alive.”
Bill Rodgers, a member of the trail council, went to the trail with his wife to photograph the bird and help out.
Rodgers’ wife, Dorothy Pierini-Rodgers, frequents the trail and said there is an eagle nest in the area.
“It was horrifying to see,” she said. I can’t comprehend why anyone would do such a thing,” she said.
Brehun said he was grateful the bird was found, allowing the animal to be taken care of or put out of its misery.
The Rodgers were raising money on GoFundMe to pay for the bird’s care at Humane Animal Rescue, a wildlife rehabilitation center in Verona. As of late Monday afternoon, the effort had collected $1,440, exceeding its $1,000 goal.
“We are both humbled and surprised by the support and outrage we are getting with this cause,” Pierini-Rodgers said. “We are very grateful.”
As of Monday, the couple was offering a reward of at least $500 from the GoFundMe account for information leading to the prosecution of the person who shot the eagle. If more donations come, Pierini-Rodgers said they will increase the reward.
“I think it is more critical now since the bird had to be euthanized because of the severity of its injury that we do offer a reward,” she said.
Brehun agreed. “I feel that the reward is helpful in encouraging people to come forward with information,” he said.
A portion of the money raised will still go the Humane Animal Rescue because “it costs money no matter what happened to the eagle,” said Rodgers.
Because the bald eagle was removed from the threatened or endangered list, the person responsible would face a summary charge under the game and wildlife code instead of a misdemeanor, Brehun said.
The penalty could be a fine up to $1,500 and 30-day jail time, he said.
However, there might still be federal charges, which could potentially cost more: Violations of the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, could includes fines costing thousands of dollars and/or possible imprisonment, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Game Commission’s Southwest Region office at 724-238-9523.