Thirteen bald eagles found dead last month in Maryland didn’t die of natural causes. Authorities hint that humans may be to blame.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released the results of the necropsy done on the eagles, found February 20 near Federalsburg, in Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The results indicate the eagles, which didn’t show any outward signs of trauma, didn’t succumb to disease or some other natural cause.
Ruling out a disease — such as avian flu — as the cause is important, the Fish and Wildlife Service said, considering the area’s many poultry farms and migratory birds.
“Our investigation is now focused on human causes and bringing to justice the person(s) responsible for the death of these eagles,” the Fish and Wildlife Service said in a statement.
But the service, which is working with the Maryland Natural Resources Police, didn’t give out any more details in the case, citing the ongoing investigation. A $25,000 reward leading to the arrest and conviction of suspects has been offered.
‘Largest die-off’ in years
Four of the dead eagles were found by a man who was searching a field for shed deer antlers, according to Maryland Natural Resources Police spokeswoman Candy Thomson.
He called the state agency, and wildlife officers found nine more carcasses after searching the area, Thomson told CNN.
It is “the largest die-off in one area in Maryland in 30 years,” Thomson said, citing an incident in which eight bald eagles were found dead of suspected poisoning, though testing did not provide conclusive answers.
Though bald eagles are no longer listed as an endangered species, they are protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which penalize those who harm the birds with fines up to $100,000 and possible imprisonment of up to one year, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service press release.