Wildlife officials are investigating poisonings from a toxic pesticide that has killed seven bald eagles and a great horned owl along Maryland’s Eastern Shore — incidents similar to an unsolved case three years ago that left 13 bald eagles dead.
Officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Maryland Natural Resources Police announced Wednesday a $10,000 reward for information about the latest incidents in Kent and Talbot counties.
Investigators said last week that on March 1, they found several dead or sick bald eagles and a dead great horned owl in Chestertown, Md. Officials initially had found three dead bald eagles at the location, then returned to find three more dead eagles.
About a month later, authorities said they found three more bald eagles that showed signs of being poisoned at a Talbot County farm. One died at the scene, and two were taken to a rehabilitation center and eventually released.
The birds all showed signs of having ingested carbofuran, a highly toxic pesticide used on farms to get rid of insects until its granular form was banned in the 1990s.
The latest Maryland incidents follow an unsolved 2016 case in Federalsburg in which 13 bald eagles found dead on a farm showed similar signs of having ingested the poison. Authorities still haven’t determined who was using the poison that led to those deaths.
“It’s the same method,” said Capt. Brian Albert, a spokesman for Maryland Natural Resources Police. “We feel that these are related events.”
Wildlife authorities said they believe someone is using carbofuran to get rid of animals such as foxes and raccoons. But the eagles eat the carcasses of the poisoned animals and become ill. The owl likely ate the poison directly.
Carbofuran was popular on farms decades ago in its granular form, but a “single grain” can kill a bird, experts said. Birds often mistake the pesticide grains for seeds.
The Environmental Protection Agency banned the granular form in 1991 after it caused millions of bird deaths annually. The EPA banned liquid carbofuran on food crops in 2009.
The Fish and Wildlife Service and the state Natural Resources Police said last week that they are “disappointed and frustrated that this activity continues to occur in this area of Maryland.”
Officials said they have interviewed landowners, hunters and others in the area but have not determined who is using the poison.
Bald eagles and great horned owls are federally protected birds.