Female golden eagle was found on Friday

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FARMINGTON — Federal officials are investigating a third eagle found shot and with its tail feathers removed on the Navajo Agricultural Products Industry property south of Farmington.

Aislinn Maestas, a public affairs specialist for the Southwest Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said the department is investigating the incident, and the eagle will be sent to a forensic laboratory for analysis.

She added the department is working with the Navajo Nation Police Department on the investigation.

The third eagle is a female golden eagle that was found on Friday on the Navajo Agricultural Products Industry (NAPI) headquarters, according to the Hawks Aloft executive director Gail Garber.

An Albuquerque-based nonprofit organization, Hawks Aloft works on conservation for indigenous wild birds and their habitats. One of the organization's efforts is rescuing distressed birds, including eagles.

A juvenile male bald eagle and a male golden eagle were both found shot with their tail feathers removed in different areas at NAPI in March. The bald eagle died from an infection following surgery, according to Garber.

Rae DeGroat, a NAPI spokeswoman, declined to comment, referring questions to the Navajo Nation Department of Fish and Wildlife. That agency also declined to comment, referring questions to the Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President.

Hawks Aloft received the female golden eagle on Saturday, and the eagle underwent surgery on Monday at the Petroglyph Animal Hospital in Albuquerque, Garber said.

The female golden eagle was initially brought to the Navajo Nation Zoo and Botanical Park in Window Rock, Arizona, then taken to Albuquerque. It had a gunshot wound to its wing and had a bone fracture, according to Garber. Multiple pins were placed in the female golden eagle's wing during the surgery.

The bird might be released back into the wild but it will take several months to determine if it's releasable, Garber said. 

She said the shooting of the three eagles and the taking their tail feathers was an act of barbarism.

"How could you take an animal that you've wounded and you pull out all of its tail feathers?" Garber said. "The bird cannot fly, and you leave it there to die slowly. I's just horrific."

She believes Hawks Aloft has never before treated any eagles suffering from gunshot wounds. She added the organization has received a total of three injured eagles in its nearly 25 years of operation.

The bald eagle was found on March 13, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will conduct a necropsy to verify the cause of death.

The male golden eagle was found on March 21, and its left wingtip was amputated during surgery.

Garber believes the male golden eagle will be returned to the Navajo Nation Zoo because it cannot be released back into the wild due to its injuries.

The bald and golden eagles are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. The maximum penalty for violation of the federal laws could result in one year in jail and a fine of $250,000 per person, according to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service press release.

A $3,000 reward is being offered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for anyone with information regarding the incidents. Those with information can contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement at 505-346-7828 or Navajo Nation Department of Fish and Wildlife at 928-221-9114.

Joshua Kellogg covers crime, courts and social issues for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at jkellogg@daily-times.com.

More: One eagle found dead, another injured at NAPI headquarters

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