Tennessee and federal wildlife officials are offering up to $2,500 in reward money for information about a bald eagle shot dead in Bledsoe County.
A veterinarian's exam confirmed the eagle, an adult with a white head and tail, had been shot, according to a release from the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service and Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. Its body was found about a mile east of state Highway 101 and Big Springs Gap Road.
"The photo shows the tragedy of people shooting these beautiful birds," U.S. Fish and Wildlife spokesman Tom MacKenzie said.
The crime is prosecutable under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, with fines as high as $100,000 and/or a year in prison, MacKenzie said.
Tennessee now hosts about 140 eagle breeding pairs, according to Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency ornithologist Scott Somershoe.
David Stone, president of the Chattanooga Chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society, said he can't remember the last time someone killed a bald eagle.
"Most people have a real appreciation for them now, and they're much more recognizable," Stone said. "When they've got the white head, that means they're at least four years old."
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Special Agent Bo Stone, who works in the service's office in Knoxville, said bald and golden eagle feathers and talons can be worth thousands on the black market.
But "the responsible party who shot this eagle just left it to rot," he said. "We intend to prosecute the responsible party to the fullest extent of the law."
Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to call Special Agent Bo Stone at 865-692-4024 or Bledsoe County TWRA Wildlife Officer Mark Patterson at 800-262-6704.