By Matt Kroschel

HAYDEN, Colo. (CBS4)– The American Bald Eagle is our national bird and the only eagle unique to North America. Now, the search continues for whomever shot one of the birds out of the sky in Routt County, which led to the bird’s death.

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The bald eagle, which is protected by federal law because it is our country’s national bird, was found on the side of the road in rural Routt County along County Road 80 on Dec. 14, 2017. That’s about seven miles from Hayden.

(credit: Born Free Wildlife Rehab Facility)

The bird had been shot and its leg was severely damaged.

The eagle was taken to Born Free Wildlife Rehabilitation in Steamboat Springs and Steamboat Veterinary Hospital veterinarian Dr. Lee Meyring made the difficult discussion to put the bird down.

CBS4’s Matt Kroschel interivews Dr. Lee Meyring (credit: CBS)

“We realized exactly what was going on and it was very clear that this bird had been shot,” said Meyring. “So then immediately it just changed everybody’s feelings about what happened from just bad luck to truly a bad judgement situation on somebody’s behalf.”

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Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers said they are handling the investigation but so far no one has come forward with any leads, despite a possible a reward offered through Operation Game Thief.

(credit: CBS)

“Still no leads and we’re hopeful that might change because these are such magnificent animals around here and people are fortunate to see them on a regular basis and just to have this lingering in the back of our minds that there is malicious activity is certainly painful for everybody,” said Meyring.

Killing a bald eagle could result in state and federal charges. Colorado Parks and Wildlife says they are handing this case.

(credit: Born Free Wildlife Rehab Facility)

“To have the symbol of America and then we had to make this decision and watch this poor bird be euthanized purely because of someone’s poor judgement, is a unique and difficult situation,” said Meyring.

Anyone with any information about the case is urged to contact Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Operation Game Thief.

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Matt Kroschel covers news throughout Colorado working from the CBS4 Mountain Newsroom. Send story ideas to and connect with him on Twitter @Matt_Kroschel.