- Associated Press - Monday, June 15, 2015

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) - State firefighters unnecessarily cut down a tree housing a bald eagle’s nest and killed an eaglet while fighting a fire last week, two Cascade-area residents said.

Department of Natural Resources and Conservation firefighters responded to a fire along the Missouri River south of Cascade at midday Friday.

DNRC State Forester Bob Harrington said the tree caught fire and the best way to put it out was to cut it down.

“The tree was fairly engulfed in flames, at least before they knocked it down with water,” he said.

Crews did know there was a nest in the tree but didn’t know it was occupied or that it was a bald eagle nest, Harrington said.

Leonard and Charlene Moug told the Great Falls Tribune (https://gftrib.com/1G94TZk ) that they had told firefighters about the nest so they wouldn’t drop water on the tree from a helicopter.

Leonard Moug argued the fire on the island was in the brush and did not require felling the tree that has housed an eagle’s nest for several decades.

“It’s just shameful,” he said.

The DNRC is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services on the next steps because bald eagles are protected species, Harrington said. The DNRC confirmed an eaglet was killed.

The Mougs said Saturday that they saw an eagle circling the area where the nest had been and they found a dead eaglet on the island Sunday.

“Most people around here were aware of the nest,” Leonard Moug said. “In five minutes, they destroyed it, which I think is a crime.”

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Information from: Great Falls Tribune, https://www.greatfallstribune.com

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