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Wounded bald eagle may have been from area

The 5-year-old bald eagle was shot in Gaines Twp. Photo Provided. (click for larger version)
February 23, 2011 - A wounded bald eagle rescued from a Genesee County woodlot may have been residing in the Groveland Township and Holly area.

On Feb. 14, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment Office received a call of an injured eagle in a woodlot near Ray Road in Gaines Township about 20 miles west of the village of Holly—just a few miles from Seven Lakes State Park and Holly Recreation Area.

Julie Oakes, senior wildlife biologist for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, was part of the team that responded to the remote rural area where the 5-year-old male bald eagle was reported.

"We believe the bird was shot on Feb. 11, 12 or 13," said Oakes. "When we first saw the bird he was very mobile and was racing across the fields. We planned on surrounding the bird, but he was just too fast. He was in pretty good shape."

Oakes, along with a team of re-habbers, falconers and bird curators from the Detroit Zoo, captured the bird.

"We chased him for about three hours before he slowed down enough for us to get ahold of him," she said. "We also found a freshly killed rabbit in the area of the bird, so he was well enough to make a kill."

The bird was hooded and taken to Monroe for an X-ray.

"It's too early to say, but the broken wing was in a place where it was it could heal," said Oakes.

"I have to believe someone knows something about the shooting. After 21 years as a wildlife biologist, this is the first time I've had to deal with a bald eagle that was shot. I'm convinced that some someone knew exactly what they were shooting at—how could you miss the white head of a bald eagle?"

Bald eagles are not uncommon to the area. Several residents have reported seeing birds in the area, said Oakes.

During the summer of 2009, Jonathan Schechter was traveling on Hadley Road near Truax Lake in Brandon Township when he noticed a motorist pulled over to the side of the road.

"I stopped when I realized what they were looking at up in a dead tree," said Schechter, a Brandon Township resident with a master of science degree in forest resources from the University of Washington, and naturalist for almost 25 years.

"There was a bald eagle just sitting up in the tree," he said. "I watched it for awhile, then raced home to get my camera. When I returned, it was gone."

Schechter noted the area where the eagle was perched was near water and in a remote area of the township.

"There's a good food source, but no sign of a nest."

Schechter's encounter with the bald eagle locally is not so rare anymore since the bald eagle population in Michigan rose to a level in 2009 which removed the birds from the state endangered species list.

However, as the number of birds increase, so too is the opportunity for poachers.

Shawn Riley, associate professor of Fisheries and Wildlife at Michigan State University, said bald eagles often avoid any human disturbance; however, they do nest close to populated areas.

"They may have nests near homes, but many times people don't know they are there," said Riley. "Eagles are great scavengers and are often seen along the roads feeding on roadkill. But unlike coyotes, raccoons, or even bear in some areas, they have not yet adapted to areas of high populations. Bald eagles are in areas around open water so they can prey on ducks and geese that hang out all year-round. But bald eagles, like any animal, can change their behavior and over time adapt to changes."

"It's a sad statement when our national symbol is desecrated," he said.

Anyone with information pertaining to this incident is urged to call the Michigan DNRE's Report all Poaching Hotline, 800-292-7800.

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