Bald eagle missing after hole cut in enclosure at Thunder Bay, Ont., zoo

Bald eagle missing from Ontario zoo

A bald eagle is missing at an Ontario zoo after the bird’s enclosure was vandalized.

Gordon John, the acting parks manager at Chippewa Wildlife Park in Thunder Bay, Ont., said someone snuck into the park last Thursday, smashed a lock on a door to the cage where they keep two bald eagles and cut a three-metre flap in the fence.

He said zoo staff found a ladder nearby that they believe the suspect used to cut the fence about four metres off the ground, allowing the eagle to fly through.

“They put a big gaping hole in there and scared the eagle out, is my guess, because they (the eagles) won’t go anywhere,” John said.

“They were born in captivity and they’ve been there for 10 years and they get free food and are more scared of people coming into their environment then wanting to get out.”

The other eagle didn’t leave despite the opportunity, John said, adding that the bird “has been crying” for its missing mate the past few days. He said the eagles are a breeding pair and have had several eaglets over the years, which have since been traded to other zoos.

The park, which is owned and operated by the city, is closed to the public this time of year. It houses wildlife that are native to the area including owls, hawks, wolves, lynx and elk, John said.

No other animals are missing, he said.

“Somebody did this deliberately and maybe they had good intentions of setting it free, which is obviously the opposite of what would happen to an animal in captivity who is not used to fending for its own food,” John said.

He is concerned for the health of the eagle because it has never flown great distances as it has been in an enclosure its entire life.

“If it gets tired, it goes to the ground â€” it’s their habit,” John said. “If it’s sitting up in the tree, no problem, but if it does go to the ground, it’s prey to wolves, coyotes, you name it. “

John said he’s also worried that the eagle won’t have the ability to hunt, since it’s been fed a steady diet of dead mice, quail, meat and fish.

“There’s lots of eagles here, especially out at our city dump, so maybe it will find food there,” John said. “Perhaps it could survive — I hope it does.”

Thunder Bay police Const. Julie Tilbury said they are investigating the break-in and if they find the suspect, they could face numerous charges including mischief, theft and endangering the life of an animal.

If it is found that the bald eagle was released, she said, the suspect could also face charges under Ontario’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act.

Liam Casey, The Canadian Press

Canadian Press