One spirited eagle

As veterinarian mends wing, officers hunt shooter

A bald eagle mends at Arrowhead Veterinary Hospital in Fruita. Bald and golden eagles are protected under the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.

Even for a 3-year-old, its gaze is piercing, occasionally and deliberately blinking its amber eyes.

At more than 2 feet high on its perch, with talons the size of razor-sharp fingers, veterinarian Paul Bingham — who has rehabilitated countless raptors — is careful around this immature bald eagle.

Its head feathers won’t turn white until next year.

“There’s not many birds that intimidate me, but this one does,” Bingham said, opening the cage to let a photographer scoot in for a quick photo. “I’ll close the gate if it comes at you with its talons. It’s a full-contact bird.”

Bingham, DVM at Arrowhead Veterinary Hospital, 1620 L Road, is accustomed to volunteering his time to help rehabilitate animals brought in by officers with Colorado Parks and Wildlife. However, fixing up a bald eagle is a rare event.

Bingham fixed the bird’s broken wing, and soon it will be taken to the Pauline S. Schneegas Wildlife Foundation in Silt for rehabilitation before it’s returned to the wild.

In the meantime, wildlife officers with Colorado Parks and Wildlife are seeking information about who shot the bald eagle.

According to agency spokesman Mike Porras, a waterfowl hunter in the Snooks Bottom open space west of Fruita reported seeing the injured bird. The bird was delivered to the Arrowhead Veterinary Hospital on Nov. 6, but wildlife officers spent several days before that attempting to capture the large bird, Porras said.

Bald eagles are not listed under the Endangered Species Act, but bald eagles and golden eagles are protected under another federal act, the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. Additionally, the Lacey Act also protects bald eagles,

Anyone convicted of injuring a bald eagle would receive a court summons, no less than a $1,000 fine, 20 points off a hunting license and even a possible jail sentence, Porras said.

Porras said that wildlife officers take into consideration hunters who mistakenly injure or kill wildlife if those people come forward and report it. Fines and penalties would likely be higher if a suspect is caught and did not first come forward, he said.

“Unfortunately we do get people that take wildlife illegally,” he said. “What’s important is the public can help us bring people like that to justice.”

Anyone with information on the incident can call the wildlife tips hotline, Operation Game Thief, at 877-265-6648.


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