UPDATE: On Wednesday, Suffolk County SPCA announced that the reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the individual(s) responsible for the theft of Sammy, the bald eagle from the Quogue Wildlife Refuge has increased to $10,000.
The total reward is now up to $20,000, including $10,000 from Suffolk County SPCA, up to $5,000 from Crime Stoppers and $5,000 from Nassau County SPCA.
The Quogue Wildlife Refuge is currently searching for Sam, the bald eagle who has lived under their care for 31 years. According to Kimberly Stever of the Quogue Wildlife Refuge, Sam’s cage was cut open sometime between 2:15–4:15 a.m. on Tuesday, July 16.
The Quogue Village Police, Suffolk County Police, SPCA of Nassau and Suffolk counties and the New York State DEC have been involved in the search. Suffolk County Crime Stoppers and the Nassau County SPCA have both offered $5,000 rewards for his return. The United States Fish & Wildlife Service, who were responsible for Sam’s original placement at the refuge, are also involved in the search. The involvement of these federal agencies is not unusual, as bald eagles are a federally protected species.
According to Stever, Sam originally came to the Quogue Wildlife refuge in 1988 after being illegally shot and injured by a poacher, leaving him with one wing. As a result, Sam is unable to hunt or survive in the wild. The Quogue Wildlife Refuge is gravely concerned by Sam’s disappearance, Stever explained, but emphasized, “Our real goal is to get Sam back healthy so he can live out the rest of his years with us.”
The Quogue Wildlife Refuge could not comment on the specific penalties those who stole Sam could face, but according to the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act passed in 1940, it is prohibited to take, possess, transport, export, import, sell, purchase, barter, or offer to sell, purchase or barter any bald or golden eagle, alive or dead, including any part, nest or egg, unless allowed by permit. Amendments to the law in 1972 increased penalties for violators to carries a maximum fine of $5,000 or one year imprisonment. A felony conviction could result in a maximum fine of $250,000 or two years imprisonment.
It should be noted that, with the exception of those who are verified members of a federally recognized Native American tribe, owning even the feather of a bald eagle is a federal offense. In 2018, Governor Andrew Cuomo publicly spoke of keeping an eagle’s feather on his mantlepiece. At the time, a spokesman for Cuomo explained that upon realizing the crime, the Governor made plans to donate the feather to the U.S Fish & Wildlife service or return it to the river where it was found.
Let’s hope that Sam, too, is returned in good health to his dedicated caretakers.
If you have any information about this crime, you can call Suffolk County Crime Stoppers with anonymous tips at 1-800-220-TIPS (8477), or by texting SCPD and your message to CRIMES (274637). You can also contact Quogue Wildlife Refuge (quoguewildliferefuge.org) at 631-653-4771, Quogue Village Police at 631-653-4791, or the Suffolk or Nassau County SPCA at 631-382-7722 or 516-843-7722, respectively.