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Jul 19, 2019 2:01 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

County Police and SPCAs Offer $20,000 Reward For Info On Stolen Bald Eagle

Quogue Wildlife Refuge visitors tied heartfelt notes at the bald eagle's enclosure, where he was stolen from Tuesday morning. ANISAH ABDULLAH
Jul 26, 2019 4:46 PM

UPDATE: Friday, July 26

Quogue Wildlife Refuge staff and Quogue Village Police said that the man seen at the end of the surveillance footage clip with the headlamp is the refuge's director, Michael Nelson, who lives on the premises.

Kimberly Stever, the refuge's benefit coordinator and administrative assistant, said in an email on Thursday that "he went outside at 4:15 a.m. because he thought he heard something."

The actual suspect is seen at the beginning of the video clip walking in the background in the top right corner.

Police and refuge staff said they knew at the outset that Mr. Nelson was seen in the video, but that information was not disclosed due to a miscommunication during the original reporting of this story.

ORIGINAL STORY: Friday, July 19

A bald eagle stolen from the Quogue Wildlife Refuge last week is still missing, and several organizations are offering rewards totaling $20,000 for any information that could lead to an arrest.

"We are touched by the concern and offerings of support for the safe return of our eagle, ‘Sam,'" the wildlife refuge wrote in a press release on Monday, six days after the eagle was taken.

The Quogue Village Police Department is working with the State Department of Environmental Conservation, the Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and now the New York Police Department to track down the eagle and its thief.

“We’re following some leads, but we have nothing credible at this point to offer up for a public release,” Quogue Village Police Lieutenant Daniel Hartman said on Friday, July 19.

The Suffolk County SPCA is offering $10,000, and the Suffolk County Crime Stoppers and Nassau County SPCA are each offering $5,000 rewards, a jump from the original amount of $5,000 that the Crime Stoppers offered. The organizations involved in the case gathered at a press conference on Saturday to discuss what steps are being taken.

Sam, a 35-year-old male bald eagle with only one wing, was taken from his enclosure at the Quogue Wildlife Refuge between 3 and 4:15 a.m. on Tuesday, July 16. Refuge staff came into work that morning and saw that the fencing around the enclosure was cut open and Sam was missing.

Surveillance footage from earlier that morning shows one or two unidentified men in the parking lot of the refuge. One man was seen turning on a headlamp and carrying a large object. Refuge staff and police said they cannot identify who is in the footage.

“Since Tuesday, there hasn’t been much more information,” said Jillian Vargas, the refuge’s summer receptionist.

The refuge had been Sam’s home for 31 years. He was illegally shot by a poacher in the Western United States, and his right wing had to be amputated as a result, leaving him unable to fly.

Refuge staff said they are hoping he is safe and being fed. Without food, he could only survive for about one day, according to Ms. Vargas.

Staff would feed him a special diet once a day of rodents, fish, quail or chicken mixed with vitamins to ensure that he stayed healthy, said Cara Fernandes, the refuge’s program coordinator, adding that he weighs 8 to 10 pounds, and his food was always weighed out appropriately for his size.

Ms. Fernandes said that bald eagles can live in captivity for up to 50 years, and Sam was a “great age to be at” in captivity. In the wild, their life span is significantly lower due to predation and competition for resources.

“He was very friendly,” Ms. Fernandes said. “When people would walk by his enclosure in the morning for our staff and other visitors, he would chatter to them and talk to them.”

Visitors wrote heartfelt notes on pieces of fabric and tied it around his empty enclosure since the incident occurred. “Dear Sammy, I hope you can be back soon,” one of the notes read.

Anyone with information about the incident can leave an anonymous tip by calling Suffolk County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS or by texting “SCPD” and the message to “CRIMES” (274637).

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Federal protected bird, federal charges. Not a funny thing...
By knitter (1940), Southampton on Jul 19, 19 7:05 PM
1 member liked this comment
Extremely sad. What the hell is wrong with people??
By Po Boy (5299), Water Mill on Jul 22, 19 10:59 AM
1 member liked this comment
I hope that this person treats the bird right and it isn't about 2Gs a feather.
By Summer Resident (251), Southampton Town, NY on Jul 28, 19 10:27 PM