Wildlife officials continue to investigate bald eagle shooting north of Hayden | VailDaily.com

Wildlife officials continue to investigate bald eagle shooting north of Hayden

Matt Stensland
Steamboat Today

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Wildlife officials are still trying to find the person who shot a bald eagle last month north of Hayden.

"It's still an active and ongoing investigation," Area Wildlife Manager Kris Middledorf said.

The eagle was found Dec. 14 alongside Routt County Road 80 about seven miles from Hayden.

The eagle was brought to Born Free Wildlife Rehabilitation in Steamboat and was examined by Steamboat Veterinary Hospital's Dr. Lee Meyring.

It was initially believed the eagle might have been hit by a car, but X-rays revealed the full extent of the injuries.

One of the eagle's legs was nearly severed, and the decision was made to euthanize it.

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It was an emotional event for Meyring as well as Tracy Bye, who runs Born Free.

"A really emotional situation because it didn't need to be," Bye said after the animal was put down. "It was like he was forgiving people, even though a person did this to him."

Meyring said it was one of the worst cases of animal cruelty he has seen during his 22-year career.

"When I put that eagle down, it was the most significant sadness that I've ever experienced," Meyring said.

Middledorf said the eagle's injuries were later examined by experts.

They determined euthanasia was appropriate and confirmed a bullet caused the injuries, although the report did not identify the type of bullet. The examination showed the eagle's leg had fractures and multiple broken talons.

The eagle was otherwise in excellent health.

Born Free, which relies entirely on donations to operate, has received $5,000 from an anonymous Steamboat resident for information that leads to the arrest of the person responsible. Anyone with information can contact Routt County Communications at 970-879-1090.

People can also contact Colorado's Operation Game Thief by calling 1-877-265-6648 or emailing game.thief@state.co.us. That organization also offers cash rewards.