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FARMINGTON — A golden eagle found shot and with its tail feathers removed earlier this week on the Navajo Agricultural Products Industry property south of Farmington has died, echoing incidents that occurred last spring.

The eagle was found alive around 11 a.m. Tuesday by a NAPI safety technician who noticed it was walking through a field and was unable to fly, according to a NAPI press release.

It was captured by NAPI's safety department, and the Navajo Nation Department of Fish and Wildlife was notified. The eagle was picked up around 2:40 p.m. Tuesday but died from its injuries en route to Albuquerque.

Gail Garber, executive director of Hawks Aloft, said the bird was shot in the upper portion of one of its wings. While it was injured, someone removed its tail feathers.  

The nonprofit organization based in Albuquerque focuses on conservation of indigenous wild birds and their habitats.

It has been estimated by the Navajo Nation Zoological and Botanical Park staff that the bird could have been left on the ground for up to a week, unable to fly or eat, according to Garber.

A bald eagle and a golden eagle died last year in the area of the NAPI property after they were shot and their tail feathers were removed, Garber said. The bald eagle died from an infection following surgery.

Garber believes the eagles are drawn to the NAPI property because it has places to perch and plenty of prey, including prairie dogs.

Hawks Aloft took in four eagles in 2018 that had been deliberately shot, according to Garber. All of them were found on the NAPI property. That marked the first time in 25 years that the nonprofit had taken in eagles that had been shot.

"Last year was a tough one for eagles," Garber said.

Two golden eagles that also had been shot and had their feathers removed last year were welcomed to the Navajo Nation Eagle Sanctuary and Education Center on July 31, according to Navajo Zoo manager David Mikesic. The injuries the birds suffered prevented them from being released in the wild.

Mikesic said there is a black market for eagle feathers, especially tail feathers, which is why people shoot them for financial gain.

"We're really hoping that this activity ends quickly," Mikesic said.

The eagle sanctuary opened in July 2016 with five golden eagles. It now has 15 golden eagles that staff members provide food and water for, and are on display.

The zoo staff collects the feathers that are dropped, shed or molted from the golden eagles and distributes them for free.

Those interested in applying for the golden eagle feather distribution can apply using a form on the Navajo Nation Department of Fish and Wildlife's website at www.nndfw.org.

Anyone with information about the latest incident can call the Navajo Nation Department of Fish and Wildlife at 928-221-9114 or Operation Game Thief 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.

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