A hiker in a park on the southeast side of Des Moines made a disturbing discovery Wednesday. State conservation officer Nate Anderson says it was a bald eagle that had been shot and dismembered.

“A person was hiking along the river in Yellow Banks County Park in Polk County and saw some feathers, got to looking, and contacted me. I went out and checked it out and it was, in fact, a dead eagle. It was pretty far decayed, it had been there a while,” Anderson said.

The eagle’s head and talons had been cut off. “Unfortunately, people like collecting those items,” Anderson said. “Anytime there’s something people aren’t allowed to have, of course, that intrigues a certain group of people who want to collect those things.”

Anderson is hoping he can track down the culprit. “It’s going to depend on if somebody saw something,” Anderson said. “I don’t have a lot of evidence to go on with just an eagle that’s been poached along the river. So, I’m going to need some help from the public to be able to close the case.”

Bald eagles have been a state and federally protected species since 1940. Those caught killing an eagle can face one year in prison and a $5,000 fine.

The national symbol is more prevalent in Iowa than possibly anytime in state history. The DNR recently reported there are now more than 400 eagle nesting pairs across all 99 of the state’s counties.