Connecticut State Police are looking for a stolen bald eagle.
The eagle was taken from its locked aviary at a wildlife rehabilitation center in Ashford, state police said in a press release Monday.
“It is just a feeling of dread and panic,” said Mary-Beth Kaeser, owner and founder of Horizon Wings Rehabilitation and Education Center.
Kaeser went to feed Atka, the bald eagle, but instead found the door to his aviary open and the lock on the ground.
Atka came to Horizon Wings as a 1-year-old nine years ago. He has a permanent wing injury, but Kaeser’s team trained him to be an educational ambassador. According to Kaeser, he attends more than 100 programs per year, working mostly with children.
“People are pretty much in awe of him,” said Kaeser. “He is magnificent.”
Atka was at a program just yesterday. He returned home and Kaeser locked him in his aviary. The next morning, he was nowhere to be found. The staff at Horizon Wings is worried about where he could be and who has him.
“There is a black market for them and there is a black market for their feathers,” said Kaeser. “Some people don’t care how they get their money and that is my biggest fear.”
State police were contacted this morning to take over the investigation from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
In the meantime, Kaeser said that the staff is holding out hope that maybe someone did not take Atka, but just opened the door and let him walk off. As a flightless bird, Kaeser said he would not have been able to go far.
“We have been looking under all of the aviaries, wood piles,” said Ann Pacheco, who helped search for Atka Monday. “It is a bird for some people, but if you had a relationship with this bird it becomes your family.”
Horizon Wings is offering a reward to anyone who can bring Atka back. As of Monday night, the reward had reached $4,000.
“I just want him back,” said Kaeser. “I just want him back and I want him safe. That’s all I want.”
According to State Police, anyone who sees the eagle should not approach it.
If you have any information, call Horizon Wings at 860-481-0525 or Connecticut State Police at 860-896-3200.