By Scott Bolthouse | The Huron Hub
Posted Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2019
Two men from New Boston admitted to shooting and killing a 2-year-old female bald eagle in a wooded area near the Bear Creek access site on the Manistee River in Brown Township on Saturday.
DNR conservation officers found the eagle after it had been shot and transported to Wings of Wonder, a raptor education, rehabilitation and research facility in Leelanau County.
Staff there evaluated the eagle, determined it would not be able to survive surgery, and euthanized it Monday afternoon.
“The pellets caused multiple fractures in both of her wings, some of which had completely shattered some of the bones,” said Rebecca Lessard, Wings of Wonder executive director. “There was just too much damage; she was not a surgical candidate.”
(Photo: Wings of Wonder)
Local fishing guides witnessed the incident and immediately reported it to the DNR Report All Poaching hotline around 8:40 a.m. Saturday.
“I commend the tipsters who reported this crime immediately,” said Chief Gary Hagler, DNR Law Enforcement Division. “They did the right thing.”
According to the DNR, the two guides said that they saw the eagle flying, heard a gunshot and then saw the eagle fall from the sky.
The guides reported seeing the two men, ages 53 and 24, who shot the eagle, about 100 yards away, picking up decoys from the ground. One of the guides approached one of the suspects and was able to get his identification. The suspect reportedly said they knew they had “messed up.”
Sheriff’s deputies and conservation officers arrived at the access site and were able to contact the two suspects as they were attempting to leave.
DNR says they have obtained full confessions from the men.
“They said they saw the bird coming across the sun and thought it was a goose,” Conservation Officers Steve Converse said. “After they shot it, they realized it wasn’t a goose. When they walked away, they knew it was still alive but claimed they had no phone service so they couldn’t call to report the eagle.”
One of the river guides escorted officers about 1.5 miles downriver from the access site to where the guides believed the eagle went down.
The officers hiked about 150 yards up a hill, where they found the eagle crawling on the ground just east of the intersection of Kettner and River roads. One of the sheriff’s deputies provided a dog crate to transport the eagle to Wings of Wonder.
The DNR said it will submit its report to the Manistee County prosecutor’s office to determine if charges will be authorized.
If you witness or suspect a natural resource violation, call or text the Report All Poaching hotline at 800-292-7800. Dispatchers are available 24/7. Learn more about Michigan’s conservation officers at Michigan.gov/ConservationOfficers.