DNR investigating 'several credible complaints' regarding bald eagle shot in Washington County
"Wardens have received several credible complaints," said Conservation Warden Steven Swiertz with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. "We are in the process of following up with those right now."
Swiertz was one of the wardens on the ground that recovered the bird and transported it to a facility on Sunday, April 17. He says there are several citations that can be associated with the violation of shooting at or shooting an eagle.
"It's a protected animal in the state of Wisconsin, so that's how we investigate it," Swiertz explained. "In addition to those citations and forfeitures that would come with, wardens are allowed to seize equipment used in the commission of a violation. That would include things like firearms or any other equipment that might be associated with that act. We do have the authority to seize those items."
Criminal fines for killing a bald eagle can run upward of $100,000. Jail time is also possible.
Eagles and their nests are federally protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Swiertz says he anticipates that once the investigation is completed on the state end, it will be passed on to federal authorities.
"That's my plan on this, is to work it as far as I can work it on a state level and pass my investigation on to the federal authorities," Swiertz said. "If they see fit to continue it from there, they will do so. We have a great working relationship with the various federal agencies that might be involved in this, so I would refer it to them out of respect for those agencies and respect for the animal."
Cheyenne Smith works with eagles daily as a raptor specialist at Schlitz Audubon Nature Center. She says the incident leaves her with a lot of emotions and questions.
"Sadness, frustration, anger. Also, what didn't that person know?" Smith said. "What caused them to think, I don't know, misunderstand the eagle or think that it was a threat, maybe to their livestock or something like that, which people used to think, but they're not. Wondering what was going through that person's head"
While wardens are currently investigating active tips, they're still encouraging folks to reach out with any tips they may have.
"No tip is too small. It's better to call and be sure of it than not call and wonder what could have been," Swiertz said. "They can report tips and potential violations to our 24/7 violation tip line and that phone number is 1-800-847-9367. People choosing to report can remain confidential. They can send pictures, they can communicate via email, via texts. There are a number of ways to report it."
Anyone sending in a tip is encouraged to reference "Washington County Eagle."