MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WBOY) — The Avian Conservation Center of Appalachia’s (ACCA) first patient of the year was a bald eagle who was found in Randolph County by a Department of Natural Resources (DNR) officer on New Year’s Eve with an injured wing.
The bird was taken to the Cheat Lake Animal Hospital the next day, where doctors decided to amputate the wing from the elbow down.
“It was almost shot off, just kind of hanging by soft tissue,” said Katie Fallon, executive director of the Avian Conservation Center of Appalachia.
Fallon said they believe the eagle was downed for up to a week before it was located by the DNR officer and was extremely emaciated, with infection setting into the damaged wing.
Fallon’s husband, Dr. Jesse Fallon, who is the director of veterinary medicine for the ACCA, said amputating the wing was the best decision they could make. Even though the bird will be handicapped and unable to return to the wild, they believe the bird can still be saved and live the rest of its life in a zoo or education center.
The wound is believed to be caused by a gunshot, as metal fragments were found inside the damaged wing after x-rays were taken.
The shooting, capturing or killing of bald eagles is a violation of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and can result in a fine of up to $100,000, imprisonment for one year, or both, for a first offense, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Jesse Fallon said they have already been in communication with the WVDNR to help find the person responsible.
“As soon as we got the data about the bird and found the injury, we provided [WVDNR] with all the information we had, the location of capture, the nature of injury, how the bird was doing, and sort of passed it off to the professionals to hopefully pursue and potentially find the perpetrator.”
While rare, it is not unheard of for birds to be treated for gunshot wounds at the Cheat Lake Animal Hospital, which treats around 500-600 birds every year – about 50 different West Virginia species that are native to the area, from sparrows and cardinals to bald eagles and falcons.
If you want to help this bird on her road to recovery, you can make a one-time donation to the Avian Conservation Center of Appalachia on their website.