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Police Seek Information on Eagle, Owl Poisonings

Federal, State Authorities Investigating Use of Banned Pesticide

Photo of Maryland Natural Resources Police truck on patrolThe U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and Maryland Natural Resources Police are asking the public for information about a series of poisoning events on the Eastern Shore of Maryland in Kent and Talbot counties.

The first incident, occurring in Kent County on March 1 near Route 445 and Swan Creek Road in Chestertown resulted in the deaths of six bald eagles, a great horned owl and significant injuries to other eagles that were rescued and treated. The activity is consistent with the suspected on-going and intentional poisoning of foxes, raccoons and other nuisance animals in the area. USFWS agents and Natural Resources Police officers have returned to the area on several occasions since the initial incident and retrieved eagle carcasses that were discovered and reported by local land owners and property managers.

On April 3, authorities were called to a farm in Talbot County, near Lewistown Road and Colby Road in Cordova, where they discovered three bald eagles showing signs of poisoning. The eagles had been feeding on a red fox carcass. Two of the eagles were treated for poisoning and are in stable condition. One of the eagles died at the scene.

It is suspected that these events are related as a result of unknown persons placing baits laced with carbofuran, one of the most toxic carbamate pesticides, in fields, along woods lines and even directly into fox dens. Carbofuran, sold under the trade name Furadan, is known to be particularly toxic to birds. In its granular form, a single grain will kill a bird. Birds often eat numerous grains of the pesticide, mistaking them for seeds, and then die shortly thereafter. Before the granular form was banned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1991, it was blamed for millions of bird deaths per year. The liquid version of the pesticide is less hazardous to birds since they are not as likely to ingest it directly, but it is still very lethal when placed into bait.

The USFWS and NRP are urging anyone with relevant and specific information to come forward. Eagles probably are not the primary target of the poisoning. However, Furadan is so toxic that the eagles are secondarily poisoned after feeding on the poisoned primary target. The incident in Kent County was different than the eagle deaths in that an owl, typically not a scavenger, was killed. The USFWS believes that whoever was placing the poisoned baits did it so recklessly that the poison was likely lying out in the open for any animal or person to find.

The USFWS and NRP are both disappointed and frustrated that this activity continues to occur in this area of Maryland, noting that thirteen eagles had been poisoned under similar circumstances back in February 2016 near Federalsburg, Maryland. There are legal methods and means of dealing with nuisance predators. This appears to be a problem systemic to Maryland and specifically to the northern Delmarva Peninsula. The USFWS and NRP have interviewed numerous persons including land owners, hunters and other persons associated with these areas. However, none of the individuals were able to provide any information on the poisonings. Resident Agent in Charge Jay Pilgrim, who supervises USFWS efforts in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and Delaware, said this is a problem unique to this area of Maryland. Pilgrim said, “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.” Although bald eagles are no longer listed under the Endangered Species Act, they are still federally protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. The USFWS is offering a reward of up to $10,000 to eligible individuals for information that furthers this investigation.

Citizens who know about illegal fishing and hunting activities as well as the illegal killing of wildlife can make an anonymous report, 24/7, to Maryland Wildlife Crime Stoppers by calling or texting, 443-433-4112, email, or report violations using the department’s free mobile app. Dispatchers will alert the nearest patrol officer. If the tip leads to the arrest and conviction, the Maryland Wildlife Crime Stoppers board of directors may issue a reward.

Maryland Wildlife Crime Stoppers does not receive any federal or state funding and depends solely on financial support from corporate, individual or public donations or gifts. The nonprofit organization serves as the state affiliate of International Wildlife Crime Stoppers, a group dedicated to stopping illegal hunting and fishing as well as the illegal killing of wildlife across the globe. Donations to Maryland Wildlife Crime Stoppers can be sent to: 1783 Forest Drive, Suite 328, Annapolis, Maryland 21401.