2 eagles die in Oregon, victims of gunshots

Penleton, Oregon (AP) 1-09

The first eagle was found in the snow, its wings spread far and wide, feathers scattered about its body.

Jennifer Merritt and her boyfriend T.O. Farwell saw the bird, just off the side of the road, while they were driving from Heppner to Pendleton last week. “He was shot pretty bad,” Merritt said.

Farwell scooped up the broken raptor into the car and took it to Lynn Tompkins at the Blue Mountain Wildlife rehabilitation center in Pendleton.

Somebody, Tompkins figures, shot the bird with a high-powered rifle, most likely while it was perching.

She did what she could for it, but the eagle died that night.

“The bullet had basically destroyed one knee joint and grazed the side and hit the wing between the wrist and elbow,” she said. “The bird was never going to fly again.”

That same day there was report of another eagle. Tompkins asked a state biologist to find it the following day.


When the biologist returned, Tompkins found herself dealing with a second rifle shot. “I thought that bird had been hit by a car when I first got it.”

Tompkins unwound the raptor’s shattered and frozen wing. She found a hole in its fragile body; two and a half inches of bone had been stolen by the bullet. Tompkins euthanized the eagle.

“Unfortunately this is not out of the ordinary,” said Carl Scheeler, wildlife program manager with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. “We see a disturbing number of hawks, eagles and owls that are shot.

“These birds are a magnificent species. ... You can buy targets at Bi-Mart for 30 cents apiece. You don’t need to shoot something as valuable as a golden eagle.”

Oregon State Police wildlife investigator Rick Carter is investigating the shootings.

“Someone out there knows this happened,” Carter said. “We want to have someone come forward, someone who heard bragging and disapproves of what went on.”

He said the basic reward for information relating to game violations is $250, but with deaths of eagles, often the U.S. Fish and Wildlife or other wildlife organizations like the Audubon Society will add to the reward, sometimes raising it to $1,000.

The federal laws against killing raptors can result in up to a year in jail and up to $5,000 in fines, Carter said.