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An eagle was euthanized Monday after being shot by two Metro Detroit waterfowl hunters over the weekend in Manistee County, state officials said.

Two men from New Boston, ages 53 and 24, admitted shooting the eagle in a wooded area near the Bear Creek access site on the Manistee River in Brown Township around 8:40 a.m. Saturday, said the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

The DNR said it will submit its report to the Manistee County Prosecutor’s Office, which will determine if charges will be authorized.

Two local fishing guides who witnessed the incident Saturday said they saw the eagle flying, heard a gunshot and then saw the bird fall from the sky, DNR said. 

The guides reported seeing the two men who shot the eagle, about 100 yards away, picking up decoys from the ground, DNR said. One of the guides approached one of the hunters and was able to get his identification. The men reportedly said they knew they had “messed up.”

The hunters mistook the eagle for a goose, according to DNR.

Conservation Officer Steve Converse was alerted by a DNR dispatcher who had received a report from a caller to a state poaching hotline.

Converse requested assistance from Conservation Officer Joseph Myers and the Manistee County Sheriff’s Office, DNR said. Myers and sheriff’s deputies reached the access site and spoke with the two hunters as they were trying to leave.

"After they shot it, they realized it wasn’t a goose. When they walked away, they knew it was still alive but claimed they had no phone service so they couldn’t call to report the eagle,” Converse said.

One of the local fishing guides escorted Converse and Myers about 1 1/2 miles downriver from the access site to where the guides believed the eagle had fallen, DNR said. The officers hiked about 150 yards up a hill, where they found the eagle crawling on the ground just east of the intersection of Kettner and River roads.

One of the sheriff’s deputies provided a dog crate to transport the eagle, a 2-year-old female, to Wings of Wonder, a raptor education, rehabilitation and research facility in Leelanau County, according to DNR. 

“The pellets caused multiple fractures in both of her wings, some of which had completely shattered some of the bones,” said Rebecca Lessard, Wings of Wonder executive director. “There was just too much damage; she was not a surgical candidate.”

Those who witness or suspect a natural resource violation are encouraged to call or text the Report All Poaching hotline at (800) 292-7800. Dispatchers are available 24/7. Learn more about Michigan’s conservation officers at Michigan.gov/ConservationOfficers.

ecarter@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @EvanJamesCarter

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