Dealing with Dead or Injured Bald Eagles and Other Birds of Prey
We have put together some resources and information about dealing with dead or injured bald eagles and other birds of prey. If this is not an emergency, please take the time to read through some of the materials linked on this page. They will help you prepare for an emergency before it happens.
Will I be charged with a crime for accidentally hitting a bald eagle or any other bird of prey?
The Fish and Wildlife Service does not generally seek prosecutions for accidental or unintentional bird collision incidents with cars and other motor vehicles.
I accidentally killed or found a dead bald eagle. What do I do?
- Call the US Fish and Wildlife Service to report it. A list of state offices with phone numbers can be found here: https://www.fws.gov/offices/index.html. You may also call the the USFWS Migratory Bird Permit Office at (612) 713-5436 if you are in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Michigan, Ohio, or Wisconsin (click here for phone numbers and contacts for all other states), your state’s Department of Natural Resources, Game, Fish, and Parks, or Wildlife, or your local sheriff’s office or police station. Don’t have any of those numbers? Call 911. Emergency services can put you in contact with the appropriate people.
- If you have a phone or camera, take photos of the bird exactly as you found it. Whomever you talk to will to know the location and circumstances of the death, so be prepared to provide those details in addition to any photos you take.
- If any bird you find has a band, tag, or marker, please report the number to the Bird Banding Lab at www.reportband.gov or call 1/800-327-BAND.
- Do not take the carcass home unless explicitly told to do so by a federal or state authority for the purpose of immediately mailing to the National Eagle Repository, the National Wildlife Health Center, or a similar federal institution. Remember, it is illegal to take or possess bald or golden eagle parts, including feathers, without the appropriate permits.
I accidentally injured or found an injured bald eagle or other bird of prey. What do I do?
- Contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator
- Follow the rehabilitator’s instructions!
- Do not attempt to feed or water the bird unless you have been instructed to do so by the rehabilitator.
- If you are instructed to handle or move the bird, follow these instructions from the Raptor Center: First cover the bird with a blanket or towel to reduce its visual stimulation and protect yourself by wearing heavy gloves and safety glasses. Then, gently fold the bird’s wings into its body with your two gloved hands. Gently but firmly lift the bird into a transport container. Remember, birds of prey are potentially quite dangerous. They are unpredictable and do not understand that you are trying to help them. Beware the talons and the beak.
- Once you have the bird, handle and interact with it as little as possible to avoid unduly stressing it. Keep it in a dark, quiet, warm environment free of children, pets, and cameras until it can be transferred.
- Do not keep a raptor any longer than is necessary to get it to a veterinary professional, raptor rehabilitator, or state/federal wildlife representative.
What do I need to have to rescue a bird of prey?
- Heavy gloves and eye protection to keep yourself safe. I carry these in my car.
- A light blanket to help capture the bird. As long as there is adequate ventilation, it can also be placed over the kennel to keep things quiet, dark, and warm. I also carry this in my car.
- A plastic dog or cat kennel or a sturdy cardboard box. The carrier should be secure, have plenty of ventilation holes, and be only slightly larger than the bird you are transporting.
- A car or truck large enough for the transport box or container. Eagles are very large and their crates will not fit into small cars.
I want to report roadkill!
Roadkill lures eagles and other scavengers onto roadways, where they can easily be struck by cars. To report roadkill for removal by city, county, or state employees, note the location (address, GPS, or nearest mile marker on road) and:
- Call your local police department, or:
- Call your state’s Department of Transportation, or:
- Search online (report roadkill + your state). States and municipalities have their own disposal bodies and reporting tools, including websites, that collate data to determine and address kill hotspots. This data helps governing organizations issue warnings and even close roads in the event of regular (and dangerous) occurrences like elk and frog migrations. Check out California’s reporting website for a look at how this data can be used to the benefit of humans and wildlife.
We are deeply appreciative of everyone’s concern for birds of prey, but please remember to keep yourself and others safe. If you pull over, don’t block traffic. Put your four-way flashers on. Don’t follow birds into traffic or other dangerous places and be aware that they will defend themselves when handled (the beak looks dangerous, but do not forget about the talons). And as lovely and fascinating as raptors are, do not keep a one any longer than is necessary to get it to a veterinary professional, raptor rehabilitator, or state/federal wildlife representative.