Cops searching for hunter who gunned down bald eagle

A shooter gunned down a bald eagle in Pennsylvania — and could face hundreds of dollars in fines and years in prison for the offense, authorities said.

A state game warden found the mature eagle shot Thursday night near Hope Cemetery in Elk Creek Township, the Pennsylvania Game Commission said in a statement posted to Facebook.

While the bird of prey — heralded since 1782 as the national emblem of the United States — was removed from the endangered species list in 2007, it’s still protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Lacey Act. Various state and municipal laws also protect it.

Killing, selling or possessing a bald eagle without a permit can carry fines of up to thousands of dollars and two years behind bars.

Despite the bald eagle’s revered status, it has been one of the most persecuted birds in the country, the Gaming Commission said on its website.

“Early publications accused bald eagles of preying upon game and farm animals and they were routinely shot on sight,” the commission said. “Even respected ornithologists and naturalists voiced their negative assessments of the character and value of eagles.”

The bird ended up on the endangered list largely because of the pesticide DDT, which caused its population to rapidly decline in the first half of the 20th century. DDT was not banned until 1972.

Today, the birds are vulnerable to cars, power lines and poisons like lead and rodenticide, Crystal Slusher of the American Eagle Foundation told CNN.

It’s puzzling why anyone would want to shoot the national bird, she told the outlet.

“It’s a prominent symbol of the United States, and laws were passed to protect it,” Slusher said. “It once faced an inevitable destruction, and seeing it being shot for no reason doesn’t make sense.”

Anyone with information on the shooting is asked to call the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Northwest Region Office at 814-432-3187 or the Operation Game Thief Hotline at 1-888-PGC-8001.

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