Investigators are appealing for help after the severed feet of eight raptors were found dumped by the side of a residential street in Minnesota.
All 16 feet were missing their talons, which investigators suspect may have been taken to make jewelry.
Raptors are protected by federal law and four of the eight pairs have been identified as the feet of bald eagles, the national bird of the U.S.
A forensic examination is under way to seek more evidence, but investigators believe the birds’ bodies have been sold.
The protections afforded by endangered status, reintroduction programmes and the banning of DDT in 1972 helped eagle populations to recover. In 2007 the bald eagle was removed from the U.S. endangered and threatened wildlife list. Earlier this year, a bald eagle nest with eggs was discovered in Cape Cod for the first time in 115 years.
“It’s fitting that our national symbol has also become a symbol of the great things that happen through cooperative conservation,” the Fish and Wildlife Service said in 2007.
The maximum penalty for the unlawful capture or possession of a bald eagle or bald eagle parts is one-year imprisonment and/or a $100,000 fine, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service. Under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, which prohibits the commercial trapping and killing of the birds, a second offense would be classifiable as a felony.