- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 23, 2014

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) - Motoring upstream on the Current River Saturday, brothers Paul and Richard Tyler were ready for a day of deer hunting when they spotted a huge bald eagle standing on the shore.

They motored closer, hoping to get a good photo or two. The eagle didn’t move. Something clearly was wrong, the Springfield News-Leader (http://sgfnow.co/13AlF7P) reported.

“It let us walk right up to it, like it was almost tame,” Paul Tyler recalled. “It was hobbling around and tried to climb up the hill a bit. From the scratch marks on the bank it was clear it’s been there a long time.”

Paul grabbed his GoPro video camera and filmed what happened next.

“You could tell something was wrong with its wing, it was drooping and had a spot on it,” he said. “We don’t know if it’s been shot or if something else injured it. We couldn’t find any blood on it. It’s a BIG eagle.”

His brother carefully caught the eagle by its tail feathers and grabbed its legs so its sharp talons couldn’t cause any damage.

“It never tried to bite us or nothing,” Paul Tyler said. “It calmed right down as I was rubbing its head.”

They got the eagle aboard their boat and eventually put it in a large plastic box where it stayed until Richard Tyler was able to deliver it to a Conservation Department agent who met them at the Shannon County Sheriff’s office.

Shortly after that transfer the story took an unusual twist, according to Aaron Pondrom, MDC Protection District Supervisor.

He said the agent evaluated the bald eagle but found no signs of injury to the bird.

“The eagle was released and flew away in a protected area of Shannon County,” Pondrom said in an email statement. “During winter migration, bald eagles congregate near open water in tall trees for spotting prey. Missouri is one of the leading states for wintering eagles. During winter, it is typical to have over 2,000 bald eagles visiting the state.”

Contacted late Monday, Paul Tyler - who helped rescue the eagle - was surprised to learn the Conservation Department said it had freed the bird.

“It never tried to fly away from us,” he said.

In a second email statement, Pondrom said MDC recommends anyone who comes upon injured wildlife to contact their local conservation agent or nearest conservation office for guidance on how to handle the situation.

“Moving wildlife out of its natural habitat and holding it in captivity can cause significant stress and even mortality to the animal,” Pondrom noted in the email. “Bald eagles are protected by both state and federal law. It is illegal to possess an eagle alive or dead, or any eagle parts or products.”

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Information from: Springfield News-Leader, http://www.news-leader.com

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