HARRIS COUNTY, Texas – A teenager accused of shooting and killing a bald eagle faced a judge on Wednesday.
Orlando David Delgado, 17, is charged with hunting without a landowner's consent after authorities said he shot a bald eagle to death Feb. 21 in the Woodland Oaks neighborhood next to the White Oak Bayou.
The shooting was reported near Highway 290 and Fairbanks North Houston Road.
A witness told authorities that he saw three males standing near the base of a tree where a bald eagle had nested for a few years.
The witness said he found the dead eagle.
Before deputies arrived, the witness said Delgado and two friends returned to the area and one of them pulled a feather from the eagle's body.
The three left the scene in a white truck.
A deputy was told that the men had left, but a witness told the deputy where to find the truck.
Delgado told the deputy that he shot the eagle with a high-powered Gamo pellet rifle, according to authorities.
Delgado told deputies that the initial shot didn't kill the bird, so he shot it several more times.
Because of Delgado’s age, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declined to prosecute, but game warden H.R. Volschenk of Texas Parks and Wildlife said Delgado would be charged with hunting without a landowner's consent, a class A misdemeanor.
He was also cited for taking state threatened species.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Texas Park and Wildlife Department are jointly investigating the killing of the eagle.
The case is being reviewed for prosecution on both the state and federal levels, and they will make the final determination related to any prosecution.
Residents of northwest Harris County where shocked and angry.
"My son came out and I told him what happened," said resident Dale Jozwiak. "He was about in tears."
Eric Garcia and his father were exercising along a nearby trail when they said they came across the bird eating fish.
"We had to just sit there for at least a couple of minutes and just watch it. It was just amazing," said Garcia. "You don't see that every day."
Garcia said they left to finish their exercise, and when they returned, the eagle was no longer in the tree but lying on the ground.
"We see three guys perched over the eagle, and right away I could see by the size of the bird. I was shocked," Garcia said. "And I said, 'That's the eagle. I know it.'"
The Garcias said one of the teens had what appeared to be a pellet gun. Other neighbors were told and called 911. Jozwiak took it upon himself to watch 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," Jozwiak said.
A special agent from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began an investigation while state police questioned a young man at the scene.
"I hope people watch this and they tell their kids that's bad, you can't do that," said Garcia. "It's un-American."
Delgado was released on bond Feb. 23 and will appear in court again on March 23, officials said.