AUSTIN — On Feb. 22, an American bald eagle was shot in north Harris County, Texas, near White Oak Bayou. The eagle was one of two adult eagles that have actively nested in this area for several years.
A tip about the possible shooting of an eagle led Texas Parks and Wildlife Department game wardens, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service special agents, and Harris County sheriff’s deputies to an area in north Harris County. The eagle carcass was recovered and following a brief investigation an arrest made.
Texas game wardens have charged a 17-year-old Harris County teen in connection with the shooting death of the bald eagle. The teenager is accused of fatally shooting the eagle, a state threatened species, several times with a high-powered air rifle from its nest. He was booked into the Harris County Jail on a Class A misdemeanor violation for hunting without landowner consent. The charge carries a possible fine of $500-$4,000 and/or up to a one year state jail term.
Game wardens issued the teenager an additional citation for the take of a state threatened species, a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $25-$500, and civil restitution for the eagle in an amount to be determined exceeding $10,000.
After the shooting, the eagle’s mate remained near the nest, indicating the possibility of fledglings. State and federal wildlife officials monitoring the eagle nest for activity became concerned about the health and well-being of any eaglets in light of rising temperatures forecast in the days following the incident and because the mate was not observed bringing food back to the nest.
On the morning of Feb. 23, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Center Point Energy, Harris County Flood Control District, and The Wildlife Center of Texas undertook a rescue effort to recover any eaglets that might be in the nest. Center Point Energy provided foresters capable of climbing the 100-plus-foot tree to gather any eaglets and bring them down to safety. Once at the nest, the forester observed one eaglet sitting quietly in the nest. He carefully removed the bird and carried it safely down the ladder. The 5-6 week old eaglet was immediately taken to The Wildlife Center of Texas where a preliminary examination indicated that the eaglet was dehydrated and had not recently been fed. The eaglet was given fluids and fed and remained at the Center overnight. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will transport the eaglet to a Texas rehabilitation center where it will be cared for until it is able to forage and care for itself with the ultimate goal of releasing it back into the wild.