The mysterious death of 13 bald eagles in Maryland has federal investigators swooping in to find the cause.
Thirteen bald eagles were found dead over the weekend near a farm on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Authorities claim this is by far the largest die-off of bald eagles in the state in over three decades. The discovery of 13 bald eagle carcasses has sparked a federal investigation. The carcasses were accidentally discovered on a Saturday.
A man had gone looking for deer antlers in a Federalsburg, Maryland, farm field. The man insists he was out looking for naturally shed antlers, but instead came across a small cluster of four dead birds, reported Fox News. While initially he suspected the carcasses to be of turkeys, a closer inspection revealed the dead bodies were of mature bald eagles. The man alerted the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, which found additional nine dead eagles in the surrounding area, reported the Washingtonian. Speaking about the incident, Candy Thomson, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Natural Resources Police, said as follows.
“It’s been 30 years since we’ve seen anything like this involving this many dead bald eagles. Three mature eagles, the ones we all love that look like the national bird, are gone. As far as we know, this is the largest single eagle die-off [in Maryland] in three decades. It’s sad that we have three eagles of mating ability that have been eliminated from our population. Authorities photographed the scene and tagged the birds before turning the matter over to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for an investigation.”
Officials confirmed they were alerted by a call at about 2:30 p.m. Saturday. Federal investigators with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have joined the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to figure out what might killed 13 bald eagles simultaneously. While the official report is still to be prepared, officials strongly suspect the mass death may have been the result of some poison that the eagles accidentally ingested.
“People frequently put poison out to kill unwanted rodents. Those rodents die, and then eagles flock to eat them, accidentally ingesting the same poison.”
Eagles aren’t known to eat dead animals frequently, but many of the substances used to rid the region of mice don’t cause immediate death. Though weakened by the poison, many of the rodents are still able to scurry, which are spotted by the eagles and get eaten. It is not common, but sometimes eagles may even flock to eat dead animals if food is scarce. Owing to rapid deforestation and urbanization, eagles are increasingly finding it difficult to find food, and may sometimes scavenge dead animals, too.
The 13 dead bald eagles have been placed in a cold storage facility located on the Eastern Shore. The carcasses will soon be shifted to a forensic wildlife lab in Oregon. Detailed post mortem on the bodies of the eagles should offer some clues as to why so many died. Incidentally, such mystery deaths of bald eagles aren’t uncommon. Sometimes even wind farms become lethal for these majestic creatures. Other threats include fireworks and hunters.
A federal investigation is underway primarily because the species is still protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. Intensive conservation efforts have ensured the once dwindling population of bald eagles rose to such extent that it warranted their removal from the federal list of endangered and threatened species list in 2007. As of 2015, there are over 600 pairs of bald eagles in Maryland alone. Each of the bird is tagged with a unique identification number, and routine censuses indicates whether the population is thriving or declining. There has been renewed interest in the conservation of bald eagles after a livestream on the internet that offered a view of an egg hatching went viral.
The protection act strictly prohibits any America citizen from capturing, taking possession, selling or importing any dead or alive bald or golden eagle. A reward of $2,500 is being offered for information in the case, reported the Washington. Anyone with information is asked to report on 410-228-2476.
[Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images]