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Suspects in eagle shooting sought

State and federal investigators are looking to identify two young men believed to be involved in the shooting and killing of a federally protected bald eagle Feb. 25 in Klamath County.

The men, both white males believed to be 18-26 years old, were seen in an older, full-sized pickup in the rural Bonanza area where the bird was shot late that afternoon, authorities said.

Now officers hope to flush the men out by offering a &

36;1,100 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of one or both suspects in the case, according to the Oregon State Police.

Bald eagles are protected by three federal acts, including the Endangered Species Act, and harming one or killing it without a permit constitutes a federal crime.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokeswoman Joan Jewett said cases of people shooting bald eagles are pretty rare.

— Any time it happens is not good, but it's not a common occurrence, Jewett said.

The bird was shot from Bliss Road off a set of ponds in an area between Highway 140 East and Highway 70 in the Yonna Valley/Bonanza area, according to the OSP.

Information developed during the police investigation led to the descriptions of the two men and the pickup truck that was possibly involved, the OSP said.

The pickup was described as a primer-gray 1980s model, possibly a Ford, the OSP said.

If caught, the shooter or shooters could be indicted under a series of federal laws that protect bald eagles.

The strongest of those is the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, under which both felony and misdemeanor counts are possible. For conviction of a felony under this act, the maximum penalties are two years in federal prison and up to a &

36;250,000 fine per person.

Under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, a felony conviction carries the same maximum penalties as the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, but a misdemeanor conviction carries a maximum of six months in jail and a fine of up to &

36;15,000.

There are only misdemeanor crimes possible under the Endangered Species Act, whose penalties can include up to six months in jail and a fine of up to &

36;25,000 upon conviction.

Any criminal indictments would be handled by the U.S. Attorney's Office, which would decide what act to use, if any, Jewett said.

The Fish and Wildlife Service has offered &

36;1,000 toward the reward, while the Medford-based Oregon Hunters Association offered &

36;100.

The case is under investigation by the OSP as well as Fish and Wildlife Service agents.

Anyone with information was urged to telephone OSP senior trooper Paul Randall at 541-883-5713.

Reach reporter Mark Freemanat 776-4470, or e-mail Suspects in eagle shooting sought"mfreeman@mailtribune.com.