The federally protected bird was taken from his cage early July 16, the refuge says. The thief cut through two layers of fencing to get to Sammy and carry him out.
The Suffolk County SPCA released surveillance video from the night of the birdnapping that shows a person walking through the parking lot with some sort of package and driving away.
Sammy cannot fly, as his right wing was partially amputated after he was shot in 1988. He was rescued by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and taken to the refuge, where he has lived for 31 years.
“Our main concern is the eagle’s safety and welfare,” Quogue Wildlife Refuge Assistant Director Marisa Nelson said in a statement. “We are hoping Sam is safe and will be returned so he can live the rest of his life out at his home.”
Sammy is thought to be about 35, and bald eagles can live up to 50 years in captivity.
“OUR BALD EAGLE WAS TAKEN AND IS MISSING!” the refuge posted on Facebook. “He will be stressed and cannot survive without our care. We want him back unharmed. It is a federally protected bird and cannot survive in the wild as he has an amputated wing.”
The Suffolk County SPCA, the Nassau County SPCA and Suffolk County Crime Stoppers have banded together to offer a $15,000 cash reward for information that leads to an arrest.
“I do not know who took Sam or why, but someone could’ve taken him because they were interested in having him specifically, or because they were interested in his feathers as unfortunately there is a black market for bald eagle feathers,” Nelson wrote in an email to CNN. “These birds are federally protected, and you need both state and federal permit to have one in your possession, and it is against federal law to even have 1 feather of a bald eagle.”
The possession of a bald eagle is a federal offense and punishable by fines and prison time.