Authorities Reveal Cause of Death of 13 Bald Eagles Found Lying In Maryland Field

In February of 2016, a heartbreaking scene was discovered on a farm in Federalsburg, Maryland: the bodies of 13 bald eagles were found lying on the field.

The bald eagle is the national bird and national animal of the U.S., and the species, once endangered, is protected by under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Recently, reports have leaked showing that the eagles were poisoned.

Immediately after launching an investigation into the incident, the deaths of the 13 eagles were dubbed suspicious by authorities. The bodies were intact with their wings splayed and talons clenched.

Ages of the species varied, from very young eagles to adult eagles. It was the largest die-off of the protected birds in over 30 years, and the mystery of what happened to the birds was infuriating.

More bald eagles were found in another field not far away. The birds were alive, yet disoriented. Three birds died, and two others were treated.

It was immediately suspected that humans were behind the death of the birds, most likely due to poisoning.

A reward of $30,000 was offered for information leading to a conviction of a guilty party. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, American Bird Conservancy and several other charities chipped in for the reward seeking to bring the guilty party to justice.

"It is deeply disturbing that 13 of these revered birds appear to have been killed, either deliberately or through reckless negligence," Darin Schroeder, vice president of government affairs, tells ABC News. "Either way, we at American Bird Conservancy will do everything we can to help the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service track down those responsible and bring them to justice."

A necropsy was conducted on the bodies of the birds at a federal lab in Oregon, and the results of tests have finally come to light. As suspected, it was not a disease that killed the birds, but poison.

Someone used carbofuran, one of the most toxic known pesticides. The Environmental Protection Agency banned the toxin in 2009.

Farmers fought to lift the ban because carbofuran is one of the few pesticides effective in fighting a species of aphids ravaging soybean crops across the country, but in 2011 the ban was upheld by the Supreme Court.

"Carbofuran is highly toxic to birds," noted Cornell University's Pesticide Management Education Program's description of the substance, reports WNAV. "One granule is sufficient to kill a small bird. Bird kills have occurred when birds ingested carbofuran granules, which resemble grain seeds in size and shape, or when predatory or scavenging birds have ingested small birds or mammals which had eaten carbofuran pellets."

Federal investigators say other animals were also found dead in the area, including a raccoon carcass that appears to have been ravaged by the raptors. It's possible that the raccoon consumed the carbofuran, died, and the eagles feeding on the carcass were in turn poisoned by the toxin.

"This chemical is dangerous for humans and animals," said WNAV in a post. "We're hopeful that people will look around their property (especially farm owners) to ensure there isn't any still around. And let their neighbors know to do the same."

Source: Washington Post, Patch
Photos: Sheila Brown/PublicDomainPictures, Patch, Aqua Mechanical/Flickr, Max Pixel

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