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updated: 4/19/2014 1:43 PM

Golden eagle found in Wyoming tied for second-oldest

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Associated Press

SHERIDAN, Wyo. -- A golden eagle that was apparently electrocuted near Sheridan was more than 30 years old, which ties the record for second-oldest in the species that has ever been tagged in North America, Wyoming wildlife officials said.

The eagle was found March 19 on Soldier Creek Road by a resident, who alerted Wyoming Game and Fish Department officials, the Sheridan Press reported.

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The bird's body was found under a utility pole and appeared to be electrocuted by a power line, Wyoming wildlife biologist Tim Thomas said.

A small metal band was attached to its leg with identifying numbers that Thomas sent to the U.S. Geological Survey's Patuxent Wildlife Research Center Banding Laboratory.

The lab reported the bird had been tagged as a fledgling in 1983 near Gillette. The bird's estimated age was 30 years, 9 months, tying for second place in the lab's longevity records with a Colorado eagle.

The oldest recorded banded eagle was found in Utah in 2012, and was 31 years, 7 months old.

Waterfowl with leg bands are often reported when they are harvested by hunters, but reports of banded species are less common, Thomas said.

A necropsy will determine the bird's gender, though Thomas said he believes it was a female.

"Based on the size of the bird, females tend to be larger than males, and also the biologist who banded the bird, when he banded it, took some measurements that indicated it is a female," Thomas said.

The bird will be sent to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's National Eagle Repository in Colorado, which distributes eagle parts to Native American tribes for use in religious ceremonies.

Possession of eagles or eagle parts is otherwise prohibited by federal law.

Golden eagles are found in the U.S. and Canada and can grow to a length of 35 inches, with a wingspan of 84 inches. They became protected by federal law in 1963.

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