- Associated Press - Thursday, June 9, 2016

ALBERT LEA, Minn. (AP) - Authorities no longer suspect foul play in the death of a bald eagle in southern Minnesota.

It turns out the eagle most likely was hit by a vehicle and later partially eaten by scavengers before the carcass was found in March, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokeswoman Tina Shaw told the Albert Lea Tribune (http://bit.ly/1Uj9nbe ).

The federal agency opened a criminal investigation and offered a $2,500 reward back in April when it appeared that the eagle had been killed by a poacher, and then butchered like a game bird. The breast meat had been removed, and the eagle’s talons and part of one leg were missing. But its valuable feathers had been left behind.

The carcass was found inside a plastic bag on Minnesota Department of Transportation property south of Albert Lea in March.

But Shaw said Wednesday that tests at the agency’s forensic lab in Oregon determined that the eagle died of blunt force trauma consistent with being struck by a vehicle. The eagle reportedly was placed in the bag by the person who first reported it to local law enforcement, she said.

Killing or possessing a bald eagle or its parts is punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.

Shaw advised anyone who finds a dead eagle to work with local law enforcement in hopes that the carcass goes to the National Eagle Repository.

“This facility helps provide eagle feathers and other parts for Native American religious ceremonies,” she said.

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Information from: Albert Lea Tribune, http://www.albertleatribune.com

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