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Three bald eagles found shot to death near Tangent, Oregon

A bald eagle soars over farmland near Tangent, where Oregon State Police say three of the raptors were found dead last Friday.

Oregon State Police told KATU someone killed three bald eagles in Linn County last Friday. Investigators believe the raptors were shot to death.

Bald eagles are the national bird of the U.S. Wildlife authorities say they also symbolize one of the great success stories in conservation.

The birds are no longer endangered but still protected by state and federal law.

Rick Swart, an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman, said it's illegal to kill or harass bald eagles. He also said it's against the law to even pick up an eagle feather.

On Thursday afternoon, bald eagles soared over farmland near Parker Road and Tangent Drive in Linn County about five miles east of Tangent. As sheep grazed nearby, the raptors continued to fly by in the distance.

Last Friday at around 5:15 p.m. Oregon State Police said a trooper found three dead bald eagles in the area. They said they appeared to have been shot. At this point, the agency said there are no suspects and no arrests have been made.

"It defies my imagination why somebody would do something that stupid and it sort of makes me sick," Swart told KATU on Thursday. "An eagle, like other raptors, is considered a non-game protected species so it's against the law to hunt them."

He said bald eagles were considered an endangered species for decades until they recovered and were taken off the list in 2007.

"Eagles declined over the years as a result of the use of (the insecticide) DDT," Swart explained, "and also they were hunted indiscriminately because they were considered predators. They sometimes prey on livestock."

Rick said there's also a black market for eagle feathers -- all reasons why there are still multiple legal layers of protection.

"They're highly valued by the Native Americans for ceremonial purposes," he said, "but even they have to go through a fairly rigorous process to get eagle parts and feathers for their religious ceremonies."

Swart said the legal protections appear to have paid off in spite of incidents like the one that happened last Friday.

"They're in pretty good shape," Swart said regarding bald eagles in the state. "Nonetheless, they are a huge, iconic species for both Oregon and the nation. And they have tremendous conservation value."

Swart couldn't tell KATU how often eagles are killed or hurt in Oregon.

An Oregon State Police spokesman said the case is still under investigation.

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