There’s one less to count this year.
But, if all goes well, the person responsible for that will pay. Literally.
Pennsylvania Game Commission officials are asking for the public’s help in figuring out who killed a mature bald eagle in Erie County recently.
Someone discovered the eagle July 25 near Hope Cemetery in Elk Creek Township. That’s at the intersection of Route 18 and Sherman Road, near Cranesville.
The local game warden investigated. He determined someone shot the bird.
Who did remains a mystery, but maybe not for long.
Now, the commission hopes someone knows the identity of the poacher who pulled the trigger and will turn them in.
There are two ways to do that.
Those with information can call the commission’s northwest region office at 814-432-3187, or they can report it via the agency’s Operation Game Thief Hotline at 1-888-PGC-8001 or the program’s online reporting form.
The commission handles calls anonymously.
Anyone reporting a violation like this through the game thief program stands to benefit, however, if they are willing to leave their name.
The commission levies an additional $500 fine on those convicted of killing big-game animals or protected, threatened or endangered species.
“The $500 enhanced penalty goes into a special fund from which half the amount ($250) may be paid to the individual who provided the information that led to the conviction. The remainder will be used to offset the costs of Operation Game Thief,” the commission says.
Officials characterized bald eagles as endangered in Pennsylvania for decades. As recently as the 1970s, there were just three nesting pairs left in the state.
Now commission officials say there are upwards of 300 eagle nests in Pennsylvania. Game Commissioners re-classified the species as protected — but no longer threatened or endangered — several years ago.
The birds are doing so well commission staff can no longer keep tabs on all the eagle nests statewide.
Instead, they are asking for the public’s help there, too. Anyone who finds a nest is asked to report it online, with notes on when they saw it, what the birds in it were doing, whether any are young and more.
Meanwhile, the commission is asking hunters to voluntarily switch to using nonlead ammunition or at least burying or hiding big game carcasses. That’s so eagles don’t ingest dangerous amounts of the metal that is often poisonous to them.