A distinctive white head, sharp yellow beak and piercing pale eyes - this regal creature, a bald eagle, has no place in a cage.
Yet there it sits in a Memphis veterinary clinic scared, wounded and no longer able to spread its wings.
"It's just a senseless act to shoot an eagle. I mean it's a symbol of our national freedom," said Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officer Matt Canada.
Officers said a poacher shot the bald eagle and left it for dead along Highway 125 in Hardeman County.
The bird suffered a broken right humerus from one of the pellets and a broken left femur from the fall.
The vet in Memphis tells Channel 4 the bird will likely never fly again, and if the surgery fails and they cant fix the wing above the elbow, legally they'll have to put it down.
"And I don't think it was somebody who mistakenly thought it was another bird because this bird was a mature eagle. Kids can identify this, so, whoever shot it knew what they were shooting," said Canada.
This isn't the first time it's happened. In fact, there have been several similar instances in Tennessee over the last year.
"It's actually a federal offense under the Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle Protection Act which carries a maximum fine of $100,000 and 11 months and 29 days in jail," said Canada.
The real crime, according to Canada, is the one against humanity.
"Oh we're very serious. We're going to catch whoever has done it," said Canada.
Bald eagles form pair bonds. Unlike most, they choose one partner for life, meaning there's another eagle somewhere out there who now will never mate, and future generations will suffer.
"It's robbing my kids and everybody else's kids of the opportunity to see the birds," said Canada.
The bald eagle was supposed to go into surgery Wednesday afternoon. The vet ended up having to push it back to Friday.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is offering a $7,500 reward for information leading to the gunman.
If you know who did it, you can call the TWRA Region 1 Office at 800-372-3928 or the Tennessee Poaching Hotline at 800-831-1173.
Copyright 2012 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
Tuesday, May 21 2013 8:39 PM EDT2013-05-22 00:39:52 GMT
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