Bald Eagle Poisonings on Eastern Shore Under Investigation

Photo: Bruce Hallman/USFWS

At least seven bald eagles have died and other birds have been injured after ingesting poison on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Now federal and state authorities are looking for information to find out who planted the poison.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP) say it has happened in both Kent County and Talbot County in just two months. On March 1, near Route 445 and Swan Creek Road in Chestertown, six bald eagles and a great horned owl were killed. Other eagles were rescued and treated for significant injuries, according to NRP. The agency says the poisonings are “consistent with the suspected on-going and intentional poisoning of foxes, raccoons and other nuisance animals in the area.” And even more eagle carcasses have been discovered since then.

Then on April, three bald eagles were found suffering from symptoms of poisoning on a farm near Lewistown Road and Colby Road in Cordova. One eagle died, and the other two were treated for poisoning and survived.

The USFWS and NRP believe someone has been putting bait laced with carbofuran (brand name: Furadan), a toxic pesticide, onto fields, wood lines, and into fox dens to target animals like foxes. The Fish and Wildlife Service says whomever placed the poisoned baits probably didn’t intend to kill eagles. The eagles may have fed on the poisoned “primary target,” and Furadan is so toxic to birds that the eagles were secondarily poisoned. USFWS also believes the person who placed the baits put them out in the open, where the poison was lying around for any animal or person to find.

Furadan comes in granular or liquid form. A single grain can kill a bird, according to NRP, and birds can easily mistake the grains for seeds. The liquid version of the pesticide is less hazardous to birds, since they’re less likely to ingest it directly, but it’s still lethal when used in bait.

NRP and USFWS say these poisonings are an ongoing problem in the northern Delmarva Peninsula. IN February 2016, 13 eagles were poisoned near Federalsburg, Maryland under similar circumstances. The agencies have interviewed land owners and hunters, but no one is talking. They’re now offering a $10,000 reward to anyone with information that furthers the investigation.

“It is hard to believe that not one person has information of persons placing a toxic poison that has killed no fewer than twenty eagles in these areas. The only way this stops is if the local communities come forward with information,” says Resident Agent in Charge Jay Pilgrim, who supervises USFWS efforts in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and Delaware.

Anyone can report illegal hunting, fishing, or the killing of wildlife anonymously— just call or text Maryland Wildlife Crime Stoppers at 443-433-4112 or email [email protected].

Bald eagles are federally protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.

-Meg Walburn Viviano