A 2-year-old female eagle was shot by waterfowl hunters Saturday in Northern Michigan.
Conservation Officers Steve Converse and Joseph Myers found the eagle after it had been shot and transported it to Wings of Wonder, a raptor education, rehabilitation and research facility in Leelanau County. The incident happened in Manistee.
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."
Local fishing guides witnessed the incident. The two men, ages 53 and 24, both from New Boston, located southwest of Detroit, shot the eagle in a wooded area near the Bear Creek access site on the Manistee River in Brown Township. The guides immediately reported the incident 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."
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 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."
Converse received the call from the RAP dispatcher and requested assistance from Myers and the Manistee County Sheriff's Office. Myers and sheriff's deputies were the first to arrive at the access site and were able to contact the two suspects as they were attempting to leave.
Converse and Myers obtained full confessions from the men, the DNR reports.
"They said they saw the bird coming across the sun and thought it was a goose," 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 Converse and Myers about 1 1/2 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 will submit its report to the Manistee County prosecutor's office to determine if charges will be authorized.