CAMBRIA COUNTY, Pennsylvania (WJAC) -- The killing of a bald eagle is something you don't hear about often because it's illegal and could lead to federal charges, but it happened earlier this month in Cambria County, Pennsylvania.
Bald eagles are no longer on the endangered species list but they are classified as a threatened species in Pennsylvania. Game commission officers in Cambria County said this most recent act sickens them and they're going to do whatever they can to find out who did it.
A group of ATV riders who found the injured bald eagle in a wooded area of Allegheny Township on May 10.
"I went to investigate and did find an injured eagle with blood coming out of it's mouth," said Shawn Harshaw, and officer with the game commission. "At that time I tried to get it to a rehabiliator to a vet clinic in State College, but on the way down it passed."
The eagle, an adult male, was sent away for testing which confirmed it's death was a result of a gunshot wound, fired by a small-calibur rifle.
"The bird suffered one shot that was fatal," said Harshaw. "It actually entered the chest cavity and exited through the leg on the opposite side."
Harshaw said he doesn't think the bird could have traveled much farther from where it was shot, so he's now looking for anyone in that area who might have information.
"We need info pertaining to whether there's another eagle there, for one thing to see if there is a nest," said Harshaw. "Anyone who would call, I need to speak to them on the cause of the death because it's still active investigation."
With the summer months upon us, bald eagle sightings will become more frequent, especially near lakes where they catch fish to feed their young. And while it's certainly not illegal to watch the birds, the game commission reminds everyone to keep their distance.
"That disruption of the nest is one of the main causes of why you can lose some young," said Harshaw. "If you want to see them, that's fine, but take a pair of binoculars so you don't get too close."
Wounding, killing, even trapping a bald eagle is both a state and federal offense, punished by fines in the thousands and possibly jail time.
Anyone with information pertaining to the eagle shot in Cambria County should call 1-888-PGC-800. There is a reward for information that leads to an arrest.
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