COLONIAL HEIGHTS, Va. (WRIC) — Bald Eagles are an American symbol of freedom and justice. Now, local wildlife rehabilitators are fighting for justice for one they cared for after it had to be euthanized.
“None of this would have occurred if individuals out there had not shot this eagle,” said Melissa Stanley of the Richmond Wildlife Center.
The bird was found clutching to life Monday along Hampton Drive in Colonial Heights.
“He crash landed in an area where people don’t frequent because it is blocked off for safety reasons,” Stanley said.
Since then, teams worked rigorously to give the bird its best chance at survival and returning to the wild. However, investigators believe — prior to its rescue — the eagle had been left wounded, bleeding, hungry and alone for more than a week. Investigators discovered someone shot the bird, a bullet penetrated through its hip to its wing.
“He just wasn’t found soon enough,” Stanley said.
Video from the Richmond Wildlife Center showed the mighty — but vulnerable — bird these past few days battling an infection. It endured a maggot infestation and required oxygen — along with dangerously high zinc levels and lesions on its lungs, indicating a fungal infection.
Sadly, on Thursday, its condition became so severe, the beautiful bird had to be euthanized. Bald eagles are federally protected migratory birds, so its death turned this incident into a criminal investigation.
Amanda Richards with the Colonial Heights Police Department was there when the incident was first reported and looked directly into the bird’s eyes.
“I get chills thinking about it,” Officer Richards said. “Also, take into consideration it is our nation’s bird. So, it’s kind of what America stands on.”
Richards and Stanley said they believe someone out there knows something — they’re committed to holding the eagle’s killer accountable.
“Why would you want to do that?” Richards asked. She added, “It’s creating pain, suffering.”
Investigators are still working on nailing down a specific timeline, but anyone who may have seen or heard anything about this incident in recent weeks is asked to contact the Colonial Heights Police Department at their tip line 804-748-0660.
Investigators told 8News that all tips would be appreciated and can remain anonymous. Further details on how to report information in Colonial Heights can be found here.