FINLEY -- As Stephanie Parker sat sipping coffee and reading her newspaper Wednesday morning, she watched a bald eagle topple from a tree in the park across from her Finley home.
She believes two men in a boat shot the protected bird. State wildlife officials are investigating what happened.
Earlier in the morning, Parker noticed the men in a small aluminum boat on the Columbia River.
"I didn't think anything of it. We see hunters all the time. What struck me as weird was that they had that small boat out on the river on such a windy day. My husband and I used to own one like it, and we hardly took it out on the river at all," she said.
"When I first saw them, there were whitecaps on the river. I thought I'd have to call in a drowning," she said.
Instead, after hearing the shot, Parker looked up in time to see one of the bald eagles fall from a tree about 9 a.m.
"I called Fish and Wildlife as soon as I saw the bird fall," she said.
Parker said a pair of eagles have been visiting the Finley park almost every morning for about two months.
She said after the shot, the boat with the two men headed across the river toward Sacajawea State Park. But as she watched, they turned and headed back for Two Rivers. She said the two men pulled the boat from the water and placed it in the back of a silver Chevrolet Silverado pickup.
"Then they drove over to where the eagle had fallen, messed around in the area, picking up feathers, picked up the bird and drove away," she said.
She wasn't able to see the license plate. But Jon Horn of the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife hopes someone can identify the suspects.
"Bald eagles are considered a protected species. If someone did shoot it, they're looking, at the very least, at state charges and likely federal charges as well," he said. "We would more than likely refer any charges to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Their penalties would be more substantial than ours."
Even just having the eagle in their possession is against the law, Horn said.
Bald eagles are fairly common in the Mid-Columbia. This is the time of year they migrate in and winter here, he said.
"A lot of times we'll get photos circulating after the fact, people bragging," Horn said.
Fortunately, Fish and Wildlife doesn't get many calls of this nature, he said. This is the first Horn has received in several years, and he has served as a game warden for 11 years, seven of them in Pasco.
Parker said seeing the single bald eagle sitting alone in the tree "breaks my heart. I want those people to get caught."
-- Anyone with information can contact Fish and Wildlife through the Washington State Patrol at 509-734-7034.