Wildlife officials are investigating a series of poisonings in Maryland that killed a great horned owl and seven bald eagles and caused “significant injuries” to multiple other eagles.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources released a statement earlier this week asking the public for any information about the poisonings, which occurred in March and April in the state’s Kent and Talbot counties. Bald eagles were removed from the federal Endangered Species list in 2007 but still have federal protection under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is offering up to $10,000 for information about the case.
Authorities suspect the birds were not the intended targets. Instead, they think that someone is using bait laced with the banned, highly toxic pesticide carbofuran to kill so-called “nuisance” animals like foxes and raccoons. Eagles are then poisoned when they eat the carcass of an animal that originally ate the bait.
Since great horned owls typically aren’t scavengers, the fact that the owl was poisoned suggested that someone may be “recklessly” placing poisoned bait “out in the open” where “any animal or person” could get to it, the release said.
Carbofuran, sold under the trade name Furadan, is especially dangerous to birds and is banned in the U.S. by the Environmental Protection Agency, according to The Baltimore Sun.
In the first incident on March 1, six eagles and the owl were killed, and an unspecified number of other eagles were rescued and treated, according to the statement.
About a month later, on April 3, officials responded to a call about three more eagles showing signs of poisoning after they had been eating a fox carcass. The birds were acting lethargic and apparently unable to fly, the Washington Post reports. One died, while the other two were treated and released.
Maryland Natural Resources Police Capt. Brian Albert told the Post that officials believe the recent poisonings are “related” to a similar incident from 2016 when 13 eagles died after showing signs of poisoning in the same region of the state.
This article has been updated with the correct trade name of carbofuran: Furadan, not Furan.