One-Winged Bald Eagle Birdnapped, Reward Offered For Safe Return

The word “bald” often has negative connotations, especially for the 85% of men who exhibit significantly thinning hair by age 50. But this term is also intrinsically linked to our national bird, the bald eagle. Although this once threatened species has been on the road to population recovery, there’s at least one of these proud birds that has disappeared without a trace: Sammy, the one-winged bald eagle who calls Long Island’s Quogue Wildlife Refuge home, has mysteriously been bird-napped — and now there’s a $17,500 reward in place in the hopes of bringing him back.

Despite the fact that the U.S. spends $6.5 billion on pest control services each year, there are many wild creatures that are supposed to be protected, rather than exterminated. Sammy is one of those creatures, though his life has been threatened more than once. In 1988, Sammy was illegally shot in the wing, rendering him permanently unable to fly. He was rescued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and subsequently had that wing partially amputated. He was then taken to the Quogue Wildlife Refuge, where he was expected to live out the rest of his days.

Until, that is, three decades later, when he was taken. Although nearly 16.8% of all identity fraud cases were attributed to credit card fraud in 2017, there are still countless crimes that take place off-line and without the use of sensitive information. In the middle of the night, a man snuck onto the refuge, cut through two layers of fencing, and stole Sammy from his cage. Surveillance video shows the man walking quickly through the parking lot to make his escape, with what appears to be a bag or a blanket in his hand (with Sammy presumably inside).

When staff members realized what had occurred the next morning, they immediately posted a plea on social media: “OUR BALD EAGLE WAS TAKEN AND IS MISSING!” proclaimed the Facebook post. “He will be stressed and cannot survive without our care. We want him back unharmed. It is a federally protected bird and cannot survive in the wild as he has an amputated wing.”

The Suffolk County SPCA, Crime Stoppers, and Nassau County SPCA have all banded together to offer a reward of $17,500 for Sammy’s safe return. But despite the monetary incentive, and the hard work of local authorities that has involved searches throughout the region and into several other states, the birdnapper still remains at-large — and Sammy is still nowhere to be found.

Although bald eagles are no longer endangered, they’re still federally protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. Anyone who harms or kills one of these birds can face a year in jail and fines of up to $100,000. It’s even a federal crime to possess a bald eagle (or even a single bald eagle feather) without the proper permit.

Marisa Nelson, the assistant director of the refuge, notes that there is a black market demand for eagle feathers but that no one will know for sure why Sammy was taken until the suspect is found. The refuge’s main priority is to get the bird back safe and sound.

Nelson explains, “He can be dropped off anywhere, a vet’s office, anywhere, anonymously. Just let us know where he is. Everyone is on the lookout for Sam the bald eagle. Finding him would be the most wonderful thing to happen. We are all hoping for that.”


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