Bald Eagle Euthanized in New York After Being Hit by Vehicle

by Amy Myers
Photo by Ben Birchall/PA Images via Getty Images

Wildlife authorities had to make the difficult decision to euthanize an American bald eagle after a vehicle had struck the bird on Sunrise Highway in Shirley, New York.

At the time, the accident had broken both of the three-year-old eagle’s wings and rendered it unable to fly. When a wildlife rescue group arrived, rehabilitators determined that the most humane course of action would be to put the animal out of its misery.

Along with the substantial injuries to its wings, the bald eagle also sustained damage to its shoulder, which required amputation. However, this would leave the bird completely unbalanced for the remainder of its life.

Among the wildlife authorities at the scene was Bobby Horvath, a rehabilitator with the Long Island-based organization Wildlife In Need of Rescue and Rehabilitation (WINORR). According to Horvath, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service requires euthanasia when the bald eagle needs amputation above the elbow of the wing.

“The wing couldn’t be left,” Horvath reported. “It was dangling, just drooping. He would have been grabbing it with his foot and stumbling. He had no control of the wing. It was just a useless appendage.”

Prior to the euthanization, rehabilitators took x-rays of the bird’s appendages at a facility affiliated with WINORR in East Norwich.

At the facility, Horvath continued, “It’s severely injured. There’s two broken wings right now. We know it’s not gonna be able to fly, the bird’s never gonna fly, because of the fracture, where it’s shattered, its wings are shattered.”

“This might not be a happy ending for this bird,” he added.

Once the team determined the bald eagle’s somber outlook, a veterinarian performed the euthanasia via injections. Officials will complete a necropsy to determine if the bird was sick, meaning it could have flown into the vehicle instead.

Bald Eagle Will Serve Important Purpose for Native Tribes After Death

Euthanasia was not the only course of action that authorities considered for the injured bald eagle. State officials were also a part of the deliberation to keep the bird for educational purposes.

Ultimately, they decided that this was not the most humane action.

Despite the tragic loss of such a majestic creature, the bald eagle will serve a vital purpose even after death. Following the necropsy, Department of Environmental Conservation spokeswoman Lori Severino said they will submit the bird’s body to the National Eagle Repository.

This is a group whose main purpose “is to receive, evaluate, store and distribute dead golden and bald eagles, parts and feathers to Native Americans and Alaska Natives who are enrolled members of federally recognized tribes throughout the United States.”

This way, the bald eagle will continue to support Native nations and live on within their cultures.