A 17-year-old Texas teenager has been charged in connection with the fatal shooting of an American bald eagle.
Orlando David Delgado was charged with hunting without the landowner's consent after allegedly shooting the eagle several times with a high-powered pellet rifle in a Houston neighbourhood.
Delgado reportedly told police that the bird survived the initial shot, so the teenager proceeded to shoot at it several more times. According to the Dallas Morning News, a neighbour heard popping sounds and approached Delgado, who, accompanied by two other men, was standing underneath the tree where the eagle had nested for years.
The neighbour called 911 after seeing that one of the men was armed with a rifle and the body of the dead bald eagle. Before authorities arrived, the witness said Delgado and his friends returned to the area and pulled a feather from the bird's body before leaving in a white truck.
The American bald eagle, although no longer listed under the Endangered Species Act, is protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.
Dale Jozwiak, a neighbour, told KPRC-TV that he watched over the eagle's remains until authorities arrived. "I've watched the eagle for over five years and thought it was my responsibility to just stand guard over the eagle, where no one would take it away or [have any] disregard of it," he said.
"My son came out and I told him what happened," Jozwiak added. "He was about in tears."
According to KTPK, due to Delgado's age, the US Fish and Wildlife Service decided against seeking charges against him. However, Game Warden HR Wolschenk of the Texas Parks and Wildlife decided to charge the teen with a class A misdemeanor for hunting without a landowner's consent.
Eric Garcia told KPRC-TV that he and his father were exercising in a nearby trail when they first spotted the eagle eating fish. When they returned, they spotted the eagle's body. "I hope people watch this and they tell their kids that's bad, you can't do that," Garcia said. "It's un-American."
Delgado is being held on a $5,000 (£4,020) bond at Harris County jail.