Maryland Natural Resources Police is investigating the shooting death of a bald eagle that was found Friday in Allegany County near the Pennsylvania line.

The mature eagle was found by a farm caretaker along the banks of Evitts Creek, just west of Rocky Gap State Park.

"It was probably sitting in a tree when it was shot in the chest," said NRP Sgt. Art Windemuth. "It couldn't have been mistaken for anything else. It had the white head and tail and golden beak and talons. It was the American symbol in full plumage."

A preliminary investigation indicated that it was shot with a rifle and that it had been dead less than a week, Windemuth said.

Windemuth said anyone with information about the shooting should call the NRP Communication Center, 800-628-9944 and ask to speak to Officer Jim Satterfield. Callers wishing to remain anonymous and be eligible for a reward can call the Catch a Poacher hot line at 800-635-6124.

The bald eagle was removed from the federal endangered species list in 2007 and was removed from Maryland's list of threatened and endangered species in 2010. The Department of Natural Resources estimates that there are more than 500 nesting pairs living in the state.

However, the bird is still protected by the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. State law prohibits the hunting or destruction of wild and non-game birds. The penalty for violation of the federal law is a fine up to $100,000, and a violation of state law can be punished by a fine of $1,500 and up to one year in jail.

In June, the last known goshawk in the state was shot in Garrett County. The killing of the female resulted in the death of her three chicks. A reward by the Maryland Legislative Sportmen's Foundation and birding groups failed to result in an arrest.

candy.thomson@baltsun.com

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