Federal and state officials are looking for the persons responsible for the illegal shootings of bald eagles across parts of Mississippi since December.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Mississippi Department of Wildlife Fisheries and Parks (MDWFP) reported Tuesday that the latest bald eagle was found shot in Union County on Owen Road and Tanglefoot Trail in New Albany.
Officials said because of the eagle's injuries, the bird could not have flown far from where it was shot. Due to severe injuries sustained from multiple shot shell pellet wounds to its wings, leg and eye, the eagle had to be euthanized.
This eagle is believed to have been shot sometime from January 1-18, 2013.
This is the third bald eagle to be found shot.
Another eagle was shot in Neshoba County in early December 2012. That eagle had to be euthanized. It was found in the Nanih Waiya Wildlife Management Area.
And a bald eagle was also shot and found in Stone County near Wiggins in mid-January 2013. This eagle survived and is in rehab.
A hunter was arrested and recently pleaded guilty to the shooting death of a bald eagle in Itawamba County back on Dec. 2, 2012.
Agents with the USFWS said they have not received any tips about the shootings in Stone and Union counties. However, they have received leads in Neshoba County.
An investigation is underway in all these cases. Reward money of $2,500 to $7,500 is available to anyone who is able to provide information that leads to an arrest in any of these shootings.
"We don't think these shootings are related. Past cases have shown people were shooting hawks or buzzards so they may not know what they are shooting at. But, there are some people who say they can see the eagles head," special agent Chavis with the USFWS said.
The bald eagle population has been growing in recent years, enough so that it is off the endangered species list but it is still protected by other state and federal laws.
Estimates say there are only 40-50 breeding pairs of bald eagles in Mississippi.
Bald eagles are protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, both federal and state wildlife statutes. Violations of these statutes carry maximum criminal penalties of up to $100,000 and/or one year in federal prison.
Anyone with information concerning any of these three American bald eagles should contact the: USFWS's Grenada Office of Law Enforcement at 662-227-0990, USFWS's Jackson Office of Law Enforcement at 601-965-4699, or MDWFP Law Enforcement Bureau at 601-432-2074.