ALBERT LEA, Minn. (WCCO) — A poaching case in southern Minnesota is getting the attention of federal investigators. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to find the person who butchered and killed a bald eagle.

“This one stands out. I don’t know of a case on record where someone has taken the meat off an eagle before,” said Tina Shaw with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

A Minnesota Department of Transportation worker found the large bird on one of the MnDot properties just south of Albert Lea back on March 20. The eagle was in a plastic bag, breasted out, with its talons and a portion of one leg missing.

“We’re not talking about a hunting case. This is completely different, this is poaching pure and simple,” Shaw said.

The bald eagle is currently protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act which makes this kind of incident a rarity.

“In the Midwest eagle poaching is not a hot topic. Being that it’s the nation’s symbol most people don’t go after eagles out of respect,” Shaw said.

While rare, poaching cases do come up. In the last year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Midwest Region, which is made up of eight state, saw about a dozen cases. Five years ago, an Iowa man showed off a bald eagle he killed by posting pictures on social media. A concerned citizen turned him in which led to his arrest and conviction.

Investigators hope the public can also help with the case in southern Minnesota.

“I think we’re going to get down to the bottom of it,” Shaw said. “We’ve had good success over the years.”

Killing or possessing a bald eagle is punishable by a year-long prison sentence or a fine of up to $100,000.

Anyone with information on the poaching case is asked to call the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office at 651-778-8360 or the Turn in Poachers TIP line at 1-800-652-9093.

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