Sammy the Bald Eagle, who has been a resident at the Quogue Wildlife Refuge since 1988, after a bullet wound led to the amputation of a portion of his right wing, has been stolen.

Quogue Village Police reported Tuesday that “the eagle’s enclosure had been cut with a sharp instrument and the fencing was pulled back to allow access. The eagle was removed from its enclosure and taken to an unknown location.”

According to the Wildlife Refuge’s assistant director, Marisa Nelson, Sammy is on a special diet and cannot survive on his own in the wild.

He is estimated to be about 35 years old — in the wild, bald eagles live about 20 years — the oldest confirmed wild bald eagle was 38 years old.

Visitors and staff at the refuge are “heartbroken,” said Ms. Nelson in a Facebook video on Wednesday. “This bird has been here for 30 years, so so many people know of it… People come here specifically to see Sam the bald eagle… We are extremely concerned about his well-being.”

Ms. Nelson said bald eagles can live up to 50 years in captivity.

The wildlife refuge has surveillance footage of the thief leaving with the bird.

“We see someone entering about 2 a.m.ish time and someone exiting a couple of hours later with something in its hands,” said Ms. Nelson. “So we have the timing and it’s useful for police… We saw it was carried out in a blanket or a bag, we couldn’t quite tell.”

The eagle-napping is a federal crime. Bald eagles are protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The wildlife refuge has state and federal permits to keep Sammy, because he was deemed non-releasable due to his injuries, which were also the result of a federal crime.

Visitors to the refuge this week tied ribbons of support on Sammy’s empty enclosure | Quogue Wildlife Refuge photo

The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, passed in 1940 and amended in 1962 prohibits “the take, possession, sale, purchase, barter, offer to sell, purchase or barter, transport, export or import, of any bald or golden eagle, alive or dead, including any part, nest, or egg, unless allowed by permit.”

The word “take,” in the instance of this law, includes pursuing, shooting, shooting at, poisoning, wounding, killing, capturing, trapping, collecting, molesting or disturbing eagles.

Amendments to the law in 1972 set civil penalties for violating provisions of the Act at a maximum fine of $5,000 or one year imprisonment with $10,000 or not more than two years in prison for a second conviction. Felony convictions carry a maximum fine of $250,000 or two years of imprisonment.

The Quogue Village Police is asking anyone with information about the theft of the eagle to call 631.653.4791. The Wildlife Refuge can also be reached at 631.653.4771 or by email at

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers is offering a cash reward of up to $5,000 for information that leads to an arrest. Anonymous confidential tips can be submitted by calling 1.800.220.TIPS, texting SCPD and a message to 274637 or by email at

Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at

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