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Federal officers are investigating the maiming of a bald eagle by a leg-hold trap that may have been set by the U.S. Animal Damage Control Program.

Clark Johnson, assistant field supervisor for Fish and Wildlife Enhancement in the Fish and Wildlife Service's Utah office, said last week that he understands the case is being investigated and that agents will submit information to the U.S. attorney for Utah. The investigators work for the service's Denver regional office.Until the matter is referred to the U.S. attorney, no decision will be made on possible prosecution.

Animal Damage Control is the U.S. Agriculture Department's program to kill predators that might damage livestock grazing.

The trapped eagle was discovered on Dec. 16, 1991, on Bureau of Land Management land about 20 miles northwest of Cedar City. Its injuries were so severe that it lost use of its leg. Later, raptor rehabilitator Martin Tyner, Cedar City, had to euthanize the eagle.

The public learned of the ADC's possible involvement in trapping the eagle through a Deseret News investigation.

According to Duane Rubink, assistant state director for the ADC, the trapper was an agency employee. But Rubink said the trap was set more than 30 feet from the bait, as required by ADC policy. The bait was a sheep carcass.

However, he added, coyotes dragged part of the sheep to the trap, and the eagle was caught when it came down on the carcass.

A state conservation officer told the Deseret News in January that the entire sheep, weighing 70 to 80 pounds, was probably within 5 feet of the trap.

Five environmental groups announced they would sue the ADC, charging the trappers failed to protect endangered species. Ken Rait, issues coordinator for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, said the lawsuit was planned in response to the eagle's maiming.