An Arizona Game and Fish Department investigation has concluded that that the remains of a dead bald eagle found Nov. 21 were obtained legally for Native American ritual purposes.

The person who buried the eagle in a paper bag with rocks piled on top 300 yards north of the Tucson Mountain Park parking lot contacted Game and Fish about having a federal permit to possess the dead eagle, which the department then verified through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The eagle was obtained from the National Eagle Repository in near Denver, Colo. The eagle was originally recovered dead in Nebraska with severe head damage and tail feathers missing.

Native Americans use eagle feathers and talons for religious and cultural purposes, including healing, marriage, and naming ceremonies. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service established the National Eagle Repository in the early 1970s to provide Native Americans with dead golden and bald eagles needed for such religious purposes. For more information, see http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/law/eagle/

Game and Fish has returned the eagle to a Native American representative for reburial in accord with tribal custom.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department Operation Game Thief was offering a $500 reward for information leading to an arrest in the case of the eagle, which was discovered by a hiker. The eagle's tail and primary feathers had been removed, along with the feet.

The bald eagle was removed from the federal list of threatened and endangered species in 2007.

Individuals with information about suspicious activity involving wildlife are urged to call Operation Game Thief at 1-800-352-0700, anonymously if need be, 24-hours a day, seven days a week. Information may also be provided on-line at http://www.azgfd.gov/ogt_form.shtml.

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