Bald eagle shot, killed in Polk County Jul 4, 2013 4:00 p.m.
They are majestic and powerful. Bald eagles seem to strike a chord in all of us, especially this time of year.
"I pretty much want to stop my car and watch," said Kyle Roman of Lakeland.
"They're God's creation," offered Josea Rouse.
But someone just shot and killed a bald eagle. Its body was found next to a cell tower on Rifle Range Road, off State Road 60, just west of Lake Wales.
Bald eagles used to be considered endangered. They are not anymore because their population has rebounded, but they are still protected. That means you could face fines and even jail time if you are convicted of killing one.
"Unfortunately there are a lot of people who think, because eagles have come off the endangered species list, that they're not protected. That's not so," stated Florida Fish and Wildlife's Gary Morse.
Wildlife officials say the number of bald eagles killed each year is going up. It's following another unsettling trend.
"We are also seeing an increase in other birds of prey and wading birds being shot," continued Morse.
They're not sure why so many are being killed. It's hard to explain even just one.
"[It's] the United States of America, the symbol of freedom," stated James Hosegood, a veteran.
If anyone has information about the eagle, they can call the Wildlife Alert Hotline at (888) 404-3922. There is a $250 reward that is expected to grow.