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Oklahoma and federal wildlife agencies looking into deaths of whooping cranes, bald eagle

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Larry E Smith / Flickr
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A bald eagle in Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in southwestern Oklahoma in 2015.

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are teaming up to investigate the deaths of whooping cranes and a bald eagle in Oklahoma.

Four whooping cranes were found near Tom Steed Lake in Kiowa County in southwestern Oklahoma. One crane died by a shotgun wound, according to an autopsy by USFW’s Wildlife Forensics Laboratory.

The agencies are also looking into the death of a bald eagle found by a rancher in Atoka County in southeastern Oklahoma. The eagle’s carcass and head were mutilated, and the talons and tail feathers were missing.

Whooping cranes are an endangered species, with about 500 left in North America. They are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty and Endangered Species Act. The penalty for killing a whooping crane is up to one year in prison and $100,000 dollars under the Endangered Species Act and up to six months in jail and a $15,000 fine under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Bald eagles are also protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.

“This is sickening to see such a wanton waste of wildlife, and our Game Wardens are very eager to visit with the individual or individuals who committed this crime,” Wade Farrar, Assistant Chief of Law Enforcement with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife, said in a statement. “Somebody out there knows something that will help in this investigation, and I trust that they will do the right thing and come forward.”

Seth Bodine was KOSU's agriculture and rural issues reporter from June 2020 to February 2022.
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