A bald eagle that was hit by a driver early Thursday in Shirley, breaking both wings, had to be euthanized after a rescue group concluded the male bird would never fly again, according to a wildlife rehabilitator.
Bobby Horvath, rehabilitator with the Long Island-based organization WINORR, or Wildlife In Need of Rescue and Rehabilitation, said that U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service regulation mandates euthanasia when a bird needs amputation above a wing's elbow.
The bird's right wing had been damaged at the shoulder — "beyond repair" — and would have required amputation, so for the rest of its life, "the bird would be completely unbalanced."
"The wing couldn’t be left. It was dangling, just drooping. He would have been grabbing it with his foot and stumbling. He had no control of the wing. It was just a useless appendage," Horvath said.
The bird was euthanized late Thursday afternoon via injections after X-rays taken by a veterinarian in East Norwich affiliated with the group.
The prognosis was grim from the start for the 3-year-old bird. Earlier in the afternoon, Horvath said: "It's severely injured. There's two broken wings right now. We know it's not gonna be able to fly, the bird's never gonna fly, because of the fracture, where it's shattered, its wings are shattered," he said. He added: "This might not be a happy ending for this bird"
The state had been involved in deliberating whether the bird could be kept in captivity for educational purposes or "needs to be euthanized," Horvath said then.
The bald eagle had been found about 10:37 a.m. on Sunrise Highway between Exits 58 and 59, according to an email from the Suffolk County Police Department press office.
The bird had been struck by a truck driver headed west, according to state Department of Environmental Conservation spokeswoman Lori Severino.
In the email, the police press office said the department turned the bird over to the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Horvath said an officer from that agency gave the bird to WINORR.
Horvath said the bird was being sent by UPS to the state for necropsy to determine whether it had already been sick before being struck. It's possible, Horvath said, that the bird flew into the vehicle due to illness.
Severino said that following the necropsy, the bird's carcass would be submitted to the National Eagle Repository, whose website says: “The main purpose is to receive, evaluate, store and distribute dead golden and bald eagles, parts and feathers to Native Americans and Alaska Natives who are enrolled members of federally recognized tribes throughout the United States."
The bald eagle, chosen in 1782 by the Founding Fathers to be America's national bird, is seen on the Great Seal of the United States, in the logos of federal agencies, on the presidential seal, on coins and paper money and on postage. Beginning in the mid-1900s, the bird was at risk of extinction, and was later added to the endangered species list. The endangered designation was removed in 2007 because bald eagle populations had sufficiently recovered, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.