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Poachers shoot bald, golden eagles

South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks Department Conservation officer Andy Petersen holds an adult bald eagle that was found alive and shot over the weekend near Plankinton. (Courtesy photo)

PLANKINTON — Local law enforcement officials are asking for the public's help after locating two eagles that were shot in central South Dakota.

Andy Petersen — a South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks conservation officer based in Mitchell — said a golden eagle was fatally shot and a bald eagle was shot in the wing and wounded. The birds were located separately about 10 miles apart, both near Plankinton.

Petersen said a man called Saturday to report a wounded eagle that was sitting near a stock dam. The mature adult bald eagle was southeast of the Aurora County town.

"I caught it and looked it over, and it was hard to tell but there was some blood on the inside of the wing," Petersen said. "So we usually bring those right to the zoo in Sioux Falls. They X-ray them and look over the condition of the bird, and once that came back it was obvious it had been shot."

He estimated the bird was wounded for about one week and said a veterinarian determined it would never be able to fly again, which meant it was later euthanized.

The golden eagle was located north of Plankinton near the intersection of 389th Avenue and 245th Street. Petersen suspected the golden eagle was shot more recently than the bald eagle.

He also believes the same person or people shot the birds.

Eagles are protected by both federal and state law under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. Petersen and authorities are asking anyone with information to call the Turn-In-Poachers hotline at 1-888-OVERBAG. Callers can remain anonymous and are eligible for a reward with information leading to an arrest.

This is the first case of someone shooting eagles that Petersen has worked, but he acknowledged that due to a rise in eagle populations that more have been shot in recent years.

"Now that there are more birds, eagles are following the flyway of waterfowl in the spring and the fall," Petersen said. "With their populations rising, especially in the last few years I've gotten a lot of calls on crippled eagles that have hit power lines."

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, bald eagles were in danger of extinction as recently as 40 years ago. In June of 2007, bald eagles were removed from the list of threatened or endangered species. Today, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service estimates there are 9,789 nesting pairs of bald eagles in the contiguous United States.