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A group of dedicated raptor enthusiasts has so far had no luck in tracking down a bald eagle seen flying in Adams County with a leg-hold trap clamped to its talons.

The eagle is likely male, according to Wendy Ebersole Looker, a state-certified wildlife rehabilitator based in York County who is part of Rehabitat Inc., a nonprofit organization that rehabilitates injured and orphaned birds of prey.

Looker said she will care for the eagle if it can be caught, but so far that hasn't happened.

"Karen (Lippy) and a couple other volunteers are out looking, to see if it is grounded," she said.

The eagle has been seen in the area of Bonneauville, according to Looker.

Searchers couldn't find the eagle on Monday, she said, but they did find an eagle nest about a half-mile away from where people reported seeing the distressed eagle.

A female is sitting on that nest, and she is not the bird with the trap on its legs, Looker said.

Does it have a mate? If the distressed eagle is the mate of that female, the likelihood the pair will complete a successful nesting season at this point is low, she said, as both parents are needed to make a nest successful.

The female will wait for a period of time but won't endanger her own health in the process.

"She's not going to be dumb enough to sit there and starve to death," Looker said. "She'll eventually leave."

Lippy, a Hanover-area birding expert, reported spending five hours on Monday searching, and it was Lippy and another volunteer searcher who spotted the Adams County nest. Lippy said she alerted neighbors to watch for the distressed eagle.

"There's really not much the average person can do," Looker said. "Obviously no one should try to handle the bird."

Instead, she said, anyone who sees the eagle should alert officials right away.

"At this point we're trying to decide what would be the most effective trapping method," she said. "There are several different kinds of traps that can be used to lure a bird to bait."

Bird needs help: Eagles need their talons to hunt, eat, perch and defend themselves, Looker has said, and that means this eagle needs quick intervention to survive.

Looker said infection also is an issue, as is whether any of the eagle's toes must be amputated.

"There is something seriously wrong with how and where this trap was set," she said.

It is illegal to have a leg-hold trap out in the open, where bait is visible from the air, according to Travis Lau, press secretary for the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

"That's expressly to protect ... birds of prey from getting caught in the traps," he has told The York Dispatch, adding that people who set traps illegally can face criminal charges.

The trap should be staked down as well, and by law must have the trapper's name on it.

Looker said she was alerted to the distressed eagle about 3:15 p.m. Sunday by the game commission.

'Heartbreaking': Susan Boardman of Bonneauville said she and her husband saw the eagle on the ground alongside Willow Road, near White Run, a small stream.

She said they watched the eagle for about 10 minutes, at which point it started to fly away, and they saw the leg-hold trap "locked firmly onto his foot with a long chain attached."

Boardman said the bird struggled to fly. She was able to take photographs, which she provided to The York Dispatch.

"It was heartbreaking to see him like this," Boardman wrote in an email.

How to help: Anyone who sees the eagle or has information about this incident or any wildlife violation can call the Pennsylvania Game Commission's southcentral dispatch office at 814-643-1831. The game commission will then notify Looker, she said.

To donate to Rehabitat, send checks or money orders to Rehabitat Inc., P.O. Box 105, Hanover PA 17331.

To find or support a state-certified wildlife rehabilitator, visit the Pennsylvania Association of Wildlife Rehabilitators website at pawr.com. York County has two raptor rehabilitators — Looker in the Hanover area and Yorkana-based Mitzi Eaton.

There are more than 300 nesting pairs of eagles in Pennsylvania, according to Looker.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.

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