- Associated Press - Friday, April 8, 2016

ALBERT LEA, Minn. (AP) - Federal authorities have opened a criminal investigation after a bald eagle was found butchered like a game bird near Albert Lea, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Friday.

The eagle’s talons and part of one leg were cut off, as well as the breast meat, similar to the way a hunter would take the breast meat off a duck or pheasant, agency spokeswoman Tina Shaw said. She added that the feathers - the most valuable parts - were left behind.

“This is not a hunting case. This is poaching, plain and simple,” she said.

A Minnesota Department of Transportation employee found the carcass in a plastic bag on MnDOT property near Albert Lea on March 20 or 21, Shaw said. She declined to give specifics of where the bird was found or how it died because of the ongoing investigation. The carcass will be sent to a forensic lab in Oregon for further examination, she said.

Bald eagles are protected by federal law. Killing or keeping an eagle or its parts is punishable by up to a year in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.

Authorities are offering a reward of up to $2,500 for information leading to a conviction. Anyone with information on the incident was asked to contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement at 651-778-8360 or the state Turn in Poachers (TIP) line at 1-800-652-9093.

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