QUOGUE, N.Y. (CNN) — An investigation is underway in New York state after someone stole a bald eagle from a wildlife refuge.
Police say the thief cut and pried open the animal’s cage to get to it.
It’s believed surveillance video captured part of the theft.
Sam, a beloved bald eagle who lived here at the refuge for most of his life was taken early Tuesday morning when someone cut open the fence to his enclosure.
Surveillance video catches a man with a baseball cap carrying a bag out of the refuge. Police and wildlife officials believe it was the bald eagle.
Marisa Nelson who cared for Sam says the bald eagle needs special care and can’t survive without their help.
“He has lived here for 30 years and we are all very upset and shocked,” Nelson said.
The bald eagle had an amputated wing because of a gunshot wound and could not fly. He had become a mascot of the refuge and gave visitors a chance of a lifetime to see the majestic bird up close.
Wildlife officials say it would have been very difficult to remove the bald eagle from the enclosure without a struggle because the bird is wild. They are hoping for the best but they fear the worst.
“He’s a very strong bird, we don’t even handle him because it stresses him out,” Nelson said. “He likes his space and it was just, it’s very sad and we are very concerned about this eagle.”
Officials from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are reminding the public that possessing a bald eagle is against the law.
It is punishable by fines and imprisonment.