A bald eagle was rescued from a public safety communications tower in Monmouth County, New Jersey, after its left wing got caught on an ice shield. After hours of effort, authorities were able to free the bird — it is now recovering well.
The father of Indianapolis Colts safety Rodney Thomas II has been appointed a federal public defender after federal prosecutors in Pennsylvania charged him with killing a bald eagle with an air rifle in May.
Rodney Thomas, 50, was indicted on a misdemeanor violation of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act in July – two months after allegedly causing an uproar in the Cherry Valley Lakeview Estates community, outside Pittsburgh, by shooting a beloved local eagle.
Thomas’ financial filings used to justify the taxpayer-funded defense were not publicly available. His son played for Yale before the Colts drafted him No. 239 overall in 2022, describing him as “an off-the-radar yet extremely athletic safety.”
Indianapolis Colt Rodney Thomas II warms up before the game against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. (Jenna Watson/IndyStar/USA TODAY NETWORK)
The elder Thomas’ arraignment was scheduled for Tuesday morning. If convicted, he faces a maximum of a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.
The public defender’s office for the Western District of Pennsylvania did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Read the indictment (Mobile users go here)
“Everybody in the community has a pair of binoculars on the window sill in their kitchen, and we’re all very protective of all of our wildlife in our lake,” said Linda Carnevali, who lives in the Cherry Valley Lakeview Estates.
The eagle pair had been in the area for nearly two decades, she said, almost always together except when they were protecting their clutches or newly hatched eaglets, when one would always remain at the nest.
Bald eagle pair rests on a fallen tree near the Cherry Valley Dam in the Cherry Valley Lakeview Estates outside of Pittsburgh. (Dave Tauch)
“So you always knew when you only saw one of them that there were some babies around,” Carnevali said.
They just hatched two, according to community members.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Operation Game Thief program said a bald eagle was found shot dead near Cherry Valley Dam in Mount Pleasant Township on May 12. (The Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Operation Game Thief program)
Bald eagles are considered one of the country’s greatest wildlife preservation success stories, and populations have rebounded across the U.S. after they were first placed on the endangered species list, according to authorities.
However, when they were upgraded from endangered to protected, the state penalty in Pennsylvania was downgraded to just a summary violation fine of up to $200.
The Pennsylvania state Senate recently passed a bill to raise the fine to $2,000 in an effort to discourage poaching.
Two mature bald eagles in their nest in Mount Pleasant Township, Pennsylvania. One of them was killed by a poacher in May, shortly after they hatched two eaglets. (Shannon Kuzio)
“While it is encouraging to see the rebound in the eagle population in recent decades here in Pennsylvania, we must continue to safeguard this progress and deter the killing of these emblematic creatures,” State Sen. Lisa Boscola, who has been pushing for the bill since 2015, said last month.
In 1980, there were just three pairs of nesting bald eagles in the entire state, according to her office. Now, there are more than 300, said Seth Mesoras, the information and education supervisor for the State Game Wardens’ Southwest Region.
Mount Pleasant police released this image of a suspect vehicle, which they say led to tips and ultimately a suspect who confessed to killing the bald eagle. (Mount Pleasant Township Police Department)
“A bald eagle is very near and dear to people’s hearts,” he told Fox News Digital. “When I was growing up, I didn’t get too many opportunities to see one.”
Now, he said, along with an increase in their numbers, the public is also reporting more crimes with the help of social media and smartphone cameras.
Fox News’ Jordan Early contributed to this report.