ROUTT COUNTY, Colo. -- A Colorado wildlife reserve is working to find the person who shot a wild bald eagle near Steamboat Springs.
The Born Free Wildlife Rehabilitation center wants Spirit the bald eagle to be remembered as strong and majestic.
The center’s rehabilitator, Tracy Bye, says she is heartbroken she couldn’t save the eagle brought to her by state wildlife officials.
“It’s a profound sadness that you would have such disrespect to such a beautiful creature – one that represents our nation. And any eagle is so beautiful to see in the sky that it just, I feel sad because we all have hearts. And the heart of the person that could do this must be super sad,” said Bye.
Spirit was found on a rural county road near Steamboat Springs with a gunshot wound and broken leg that was nearly falling off.
“Originally, we thought it had been hit by a car with the way the foot looked, so they brought it to me and I was thinking oh this is hopefully…I’m always hopeful,” said Bye.
But that wasn’t the case.
Veterinarian Lee Meyring rushed to try and save Spirit, but he found the gunshot shrapnel had caused too much damage.
“The amazing thing about eagles is they’re such noble, stoic birds. You know this guy is very calm and you need to handle them, that’s just the nature of these. For being the biggest raptor they’re the most placid. So he was very calm and relaxed,” said Dr. Meyring.
Dr. Meyring has been euthanizing animals for decades, but this case was different.
“I deal with euthanasia constantly and usually I know it’s best for the animal. It truly is a blessing that you can do this. But in this particular situation, the symbolism that was involved here really caught me by surprise. Here’s this beautiful symbol of America, and we’re euthanizing it because of someone’s poor choice,” Meyring said. “It was pain-free, but it was just this eagle looking at you with constant bright, alert eyes, and then during the process of the euthanasia it falling asleep, bowing its head,” said Dr. Meyring.
There’s now a $5,000 reward from an anonymous donor for information leading to the person who pulled the trigger. If you know anything, please call the Born Free Wildlife Rehabilitation Center at 970-879-3747.