Tuesday, June 3, 2003

Wildlife official destroyed eagle egg

The Associated Press

FRANKFORT - A state wildlife official destroyed an egg produced by two bald eagles in captivity, arguing she would have violated a federal permit by allowing the egg to hatch.

Federal law prohibits eaglets to be hatched and raised in captivity at a place that has a permit solely to exhibit the birds. The adult birds that produced the egg have lived at the state game farm near Frankfort for seven years.

But the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the state had the option of sending the egg or the eaglet, once it hatched, to a facility with a permit to raise young eagles.

The egg was discovered April 7 and surprised Kentucky game officials. They believed the adult birds were sterile. Experts say it is rare for eagles in confinement to mate.

Lee Carolan, a biologist who directs education and information for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, said the egg was never guaranteed to hatch.

She said it likely was damaged by the parent birds when they frantically tried to roll it away from officials who tried to retrieve it.

By the time officials discovered the egg, there was "probably not even a coin toss chance" that it would have hatched, Carolan said.

State wildlife commissioner Tom Bennett said he was told the egg had been rolled around on rocks and gravel for up to two days and that the adult eagles were flinging themselves against the side of their cage to protect it and scare off visitors.

Carolan said her first concern was for the health and safety of the adult birds.

She initially said if the eagle egg had been allowed to hatch, the eaglet would've required constant monitoring through expensive overtime.

"We are not authorized to do overtime," she said.

She also said the state would have to pay the cost of shipping the eaglet to a licensed site that could prepare the bird for release into the wild, and pay for its care.

Later, Carolan told The Courier-Journal of Louisville that expenses were not a factor. She said the wildlife agency doesn't have incubation facilities and, at the time, she did not know about a facility in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., that has a federal permit to raise eagles.

In Kentucky, eagles are concentrated around Land Between the Lakes, where as many as 14 nesting pairs have been observed.

The eagles at the state game farm, about three miles west of Frankfort, cannot fly. One had been shot and the other flew into a power line. They are a popular attraction at the farm, which houses the agency's administrative headquarters and has a wildlife education center and penned animals.

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