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Where do we bury our nation's symbol?

Staff writer

It’s no secret. A bald eagle was shot and killed by an unknown suspect sometime during the morning of Feb. 4 below the base of the dam at Marion Reservoir on the east side of the outlet.

The case is currently under investigation by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but for the bird, there are several stages it must go through to get to its final resting place.

According to Kenny Kessler, special agent at the USFWS Office of Law Enforcement in Topeka, there is a procedure and, many times, even a ceremony for deceased bald eagles.

As of Tuesday, he could not release any information about the investigation. However, he could speak generally about procedure.

“We normally keep anything that is evidence in a case until the investigation is complete,” Kessler said. “We had to keep a live leopard in captivity once for an investigation, but in the case of a dead animal it’s easier.”

Instead, the nation’s symbol is being kept in a freezer. It won’t stay there forever.

“Most eagles are not needed anymore when the investigation is finished,” he said. “Eventually, the bodies are sent to the National Eagle Repository in Commerce City, Colorado.”

Through the Repository, Kessler said Native Americans can apply to receive Golden and Bald Eagle carcasses and parts for different cultural and religious purposes.

“I worked in New Mexico with a lot of different tribes,” he said. “There are diverse requirements for funerals, coming of age, marriage, and other ceremonies.”

Native Americans can request feathers, bones, and different parts depending on their need, he said. Entire eagles also can be requested, but there is typically a two- to three-year waiting list.

“A single feather is not as hard to acquire as the whole bird,” he said. “Zoos have eagles that molt and sometimes we get birds that are in pieces (that are sent to the Repository).”

Eagles that die by poison are not typically sent to the Repository because of the possibility of harmful effects to users. However, the bald eagle found at the reservoir will likely go to the Repository because it was shot.

If caught, the shooter could face up to a $100,000 charge and the possibility of one year in jail for a first-time offense under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, Kessler said. A felon would face up to a $250,000 fine and two years in prison.

A press release issued by USFWS said that a reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible.

Anyone with information about the death of the bald eagle should call (785) 232-5149. Those with information may also call the Operation Game Thief hotline at (877) 426-3843. Callers may remain anonymous.

Last modified Feb. 12, 2015

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