A wounded bald eagle found Tuesday near an auto shop outside Altoona has died.
The bird, whose story captured widespread concern and attention online, had to be put down Wednesday due to the severity of its injuries, according to Centre Wildlife Care, a rescue center in Port Matilda. A Pennsylvania Game Commission officer took the eagle there after its discovery near Yerty Auto Service and Parts in Roaring Spring, which posted photos of the wildlife on Facebook.
Those images went viral on the social-networking platform and had been shared nearly 5,000 times by Sunday evening. In one photo, the eagle appears nearly as large as the game officer’s torso as he holds the bird.
The eagle was at least 5 years old -- as illustrated by its white head and tail -- and had a severe wing injury near its shoulder, said Robyn Graboski, founder and executive director at Centre Wildlife Care.
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“That type of injury is usually associated with an animal being hit by a car or shot,” she said.
It is likely the bird was hit by a car while scavenging on the side of a highway for food, Graboski said, since there was no exit wound typical in gunshot wounds.
The wing was broken and infected, and part of the tissue had already started to die, she said.
The only way to save the bird would have been to amputate the wing at the shoulder — a practice barred by federal law, she said.
“It was too broken to fix,” Graboski said. “We were all devastated.”
Yerty Auto Service wrote on Facebook it was saddened by the bird’s death. The business thanked the Game Commission for its efforts to help “this wonderful animal” and the community “for your incredible response and support for this beautiful creature.”
Several animals — including two barred owls — have come into Centre Wildlife Care lately with similar injuries, Graboski said
“It seems like a lot of animals are having a very difficult time,” she said.
Birds of prey often have trouble finding food in the winter, she said. Their desperation can lead them to hunt for food — sometimes thrown from passing cars — along busy roads and highways, where they can be struck by cars.
Although the eagle did not fare well, the barred owls were expected to undergo surgery over the weekend. Graboski said she expects they’ll recover.