Two bald eagles were shot in the Tennessee Valley in recent months
, striking a patriotic nerve among many in the area and resulting in two $11,000 rewards for any information leading to an arrest in either case.
Both birds are expected to recover from their wounds and will eventually be released back into the wild according to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA).
The bald eagle is both the national bird and national animal of the United States and shooting a bald eagle is a violation of the Gold and Bald Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and is punishable by up to one year in prison and a $100,000 fine.
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The first of the two wounded birds was discovered in Hamilton County in March by a family who found it lying next to their dock with a gunshot wound to the wing, local NBC affiliate WRCB reported.
The second bald eagle was discovered in Monroe County in early May near Tellico River.
"They have a big white head and white tail, so it'd be hard to have one be a mistaken identity," TWRA Officer Joe McSMcSpadden told WRCB. "It probably had been shot while it was flying in the air and just made it as far as it could."
Local residents interviewed about the shootings were noticeably upset.
"Why would you shoot something that represents freedom and everything that means the most to us?" Melissa Alexander told WRCB. "It just breaks my heart."
"That's a traumatic experience for all of America," local resident Barbara Hohol added.
"The bald eagle is our national symbol," McSpadden said. "We intend to punish someone to the fullest extent of the law, if we can catch who shot the eagle."
The TWRA has yet to receive any tips for either of the shootings.
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On the brink of extinction in the late part of the 20th century in the continental U.S., eagle populations have since recovered prompting the government to remove the bald eagle from the endangered species list in 1995, at which time they were characterized as a threatened species.
In June 2007, the bald eagle was removed entirely from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife in the lower 48 states.
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