*Warning story contains graphic photo*
BEAR CREEK, NC - The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission is investigating a bald eagle found shot in the head in Chatham County.
SGT. Nathan Green with the NCWRC said the bird was found on Monday morning on the side of the road by NC Highway Patrol.
The North Carolina Zoo said the bird was then brought to their facility for x-rays. Veterinarian JB Minter confirmed it was shot in the head.
"There was a clear entry wound and a clear exit wound," said Master Officer Claude Smith with NCWRC. "It's disappointing to see something like this."
Smith said a bullet has yet to be recovered and added, while he can't rule out the possibility of an accident, the type of precision makes an accidental shooting "less likely."
This is the second instance of a bald eagle found shot in Chatham County in the last nine years. The first instance, the suspect was captured almost immediately.
"Anytime you have something like a bald eagle that is taken in that manner, it's disturbing, whether it's a conservationist or bird watcher or simply someone who has pride in our country," said Green.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the bald eagle is protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act even though it has been delisted under the Endangered Species Act. 1972 amendments increased civil penalties for violating provisions of the Act to a maximum fine of $5,000 or one-year imprisonment with $10,000 or not more than two years in prison for a second conviction. Felony convictions carry a maximum fine of $250,000 or two years of imprisonment. The fine doubles for an organization. Rewards are provided for information leading to arrest and conviction for violation of the Act.
Green said anyone with information is urged to contact the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission at 1-800-662-7167 or call Master Officer Claude Smith at (919) 239-9897.
People can also go online to ncwildlife.org and click on the NC Wild Tip link to fill out an application for information. If the tip leads to a conviction, the person could qualify for an award.