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Decapitated bald eagle found in Louisiana ditch

By Mark Morgenstein, CNN
  • A bald eagle with its head cut off is found in a drainage ditch in northeastern Louisiana
  • Bald eagles are federally protected; killing one could bring fines and jail time
  • A hotline number is available for people who have information about the incident

(CNN) -- A brutal, fatal case of suspected cruelty to animals is under investigation in Louisiana, the state's wildlife department said in a press release Tuesday.

The animal cruelty doesn't involve the typical household pet. This time, the United States' national bird was victimized.

Agents from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries found a beheaded bald eagle Sunday in a drainage ditch in Franklin Parish, in the northeastern part of the state, according to the release.

"To see any protected animal decapitated in a ditch is disheartening enough, let alone the animal that represents our symbol of freedom," said Capt. Alan Bankston of the wildlife department.

The agents believe the bird had been dead for a couple of days before it was found. Wildlife and Fisheries spokesman Adam Einck said the eagle was found in a very remote location, and agents are unsure if the bird was killed there, or slain somewhere else and dumped there.

Bald eagles hatch on camera

Agents are trying to schedule a necropsy to determine how the eagle died, Einck said.

Bald eagles are protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Anyone who is convicted of violating those acts could be fined $5,000 and jailed for up to 18 months for each count, the state wildlife department said.

Bankston urged the public to call the department with any information about the beheading. Anyone providing information leading to an arrest or conviction would be eligible for up to $2,000 in cash rewards.

The agency's hotline number is 1-800-442-2511.