The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has opened up an investigation in Maryland after 13 bald eagles were found dead near a farm on the Eastern Shore on Saturday.
Maryland Natural Resources Police spokeswoman Candy Thomson told reporters that a Caroline County farmer alerted state authorities on Saturday afternoon after discovering what he first believed to be a dead turkey. The farmer then realized that he had actually stumbled upon four dead bald eagles, and police discovered another nine once they arrived on the scene.
State officials tagged the birds and photographed the scene, Ms. Thomson told The Washington Post, but authorities were not immediately certain of the cause of death. Federal agents with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have since taken over the investigation.
The birds were discovered not far from the Idylwild Natural Area in Federalsburg, a 3,800-acre plot of land the hosts a variety of species including white-tailed deer, turkey, dove and waterfowl, and is described on Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ website as being attractive to hunters.
Bald eagles have been spotted across Maryland, but are particularly fond of the area along the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, including the Eastern Shore, the Department of Natural Resources said.
U.S. officials removed bald eagles from the Federal Endangered Species list in 2007, and Maryland agreed in 2010 to take the animal off its list of threatened and endangered species, but it’s still illegal to hunt the bird under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. Violators are subject to a maximum fine of $250,000 or two years of imprisonment.