The carcasses of 13 bald eagles were discovered in the immediate vicinity of a Maryland farm, and for now it remains a mystery how the iconic birds have met their demise.
The unusual mortality event occurred on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and was brought to light on Saturday, February 20, at approximately 2:30 p.m.
A man who had been searching for antlers shed by bucks ventured through a field located near a farm from Federalsburg, in Caroline County.
That’s how he spotted something that looked like a dead turkey, peering from the grass. Upon a closer inspection however, the man realized that he had actually come across 4 bald eagles, all of which had already died and appeared to be flattened.
The local decided that the best course of action was to alert the Maryland Natural Resources Police, so that they could investigate the strange deaths.
Upon arriving at the scene, close to the intersection between Laurel Grove Road and Richardson Road, officers affiliated with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) soon encountered the carcasses of 9 other bald eagles, in the very same field.
Out of the 13 birds whose remains have been found so far, 3 were adult ones, exhibiting a white tail and head, with the rest of the plumage being dark brown.
Two of the bald eagles were about to reach sexual maturity, while the others were juveniles, having solely dark brown feathers, as revealed by Candy Thomson, public information officer at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
For now, before necropsy results are made available by a forensic lab in Ashland, Oregon, it can’t be said with certainty what has caused the death of such a large group of bald eagles, especially since it appears that no signs of injuries or disease have been detected.
According to Bill Bowerman, a bald eagle specialist affiliated with the Department of Environmental Science and Technology at the University of Maryland, the most likely explanation is that the birds perished after being exposed to a toxic substance.
For instance, it may be that the field was sprayed with a more potent pesticide, and the avian creatures weren’t accustomed to this type of substance, their body functions being severely affected by the new pollutant.
Alternatively, it may be that the bald eagles fed on the remains of rodents that had consumed rat poison, and that’s how they too ingested the deadly chemicals.
Other theories suggest that the birds were poisoned after scavenging off the remains of a cow or horse which had been euthanized, or that they ate toxic bait left for coyotes and other livestock predators.
Lastly, there’s also a probability that the bald eagles contracted botulism or a lethal infection triggered by toxic algae, after feeding on waterfowl.
Little is known about the factors that led to this unusual mortality event, which is actually the most significant die-off reported across the state in the last three decades.
The incident is even more distressing because it involves bald eagles, which are the national birds of the United States of America, being prominently featured on the Great Seal.
Also, even though these avian creatures are no longer considered endangered or threatened, they are still listed as protected based on the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, hunters requiring a permit issued by the U.S. Department of the Interior before attempting to shoot such birds.
For all the above-mentioned reasons, local authorities have reached out to the public, demanding any type of relevant information that may assist them in solving this mystery.
Officials have even promised rewards amounting to $10,000 for those who help further the investigation, which is currently being led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and by the Maryland Natural Resources Police.
Those who are familiar with the circumstances surrounding the bald eagles’ deaths should contact the Maryland Natural Resources Police Hotline, at 800-628-9944, or John LaCorte, criminal investigator affiliated with the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, at 410-228-2476.
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