The farm where the 13 bald eagles were found dead in Federalsburg, Md. in February 2016 is owned by Robert Edgell, a retired Maryland State Police trooper – that information was previously reported by others. According to a Washington Post article from June 2018, Edgell said he was questioned about the eagles before a grand jury in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. In that same article, Edgell is quoted, “that neither he nor his employees had ever used carbofuran.” Edgell is 90-years-old and WNAV has not talked to him. We left a message.
In January of 2017, another five bald eagles were found dead in a field in Easton, Md. WNAV learned a neighbor to the property in Easton, where the birds were found, was also a Maryland State Police trooper. He died last year. He worked with Edgell for over two decades. According to an email from Florence Johnson, retirement coordinator of Maryland State Police, “Both of these gentlemen worked at the Easton Barrack from 1958 until 1980 and 1981.”
In both the Federalsburg and Easton cases, the bald eagles died by secondary poisoning of carbofuran, a federally banned pesticide, after scavenging on poisoned wildlife (a racoon in Federalsburg and a fox in Easton). Carbofuran is extremely toxic, not just to wildlife and pets, but to humans also.
In March and April of this year, there were more bald eagle mass mortality events on the Eastern Shore .
As reported Wednesday, WNAV confirmed through public records, that two properties, at or very near where bald eagles were found dead, have the same owner. Those property locations, the name of the owner(s) and the name of the now deceased neighbor in the Easton 2017 case are not being made public by WNAV.
WNAV submitted another FOIA to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) on Wednesday for information about four bald eagles found in Easton between March 2002 and September 16, 2003, which was before carbofuran was banned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. According to a release issued by USFWS, dated September 16, 2003, “U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service special agents suspect that one or more people intentionally and unlawfully placed pesticide-laced bait, resulting in death of one of the eagles.”
There have been no arrests in any of the bald eagle poisoning cases that WNAV is aware of. The Easton and Federalsburg cases were closed by the USFWS, which is why WNAV was able to receive information about them through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. USFWS does not release information on open law enforcement cases.
According to a joint press release by the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources issued today ( May 10, 2019), MDA’s pesticide regulation section has issued an enforcement advisory regarding the persistent illegal use of carbofuran, which was commonly sold under the trade name Furadan. In 2009, federally approved uses of carbofuran were voluntarily cancelled after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concluded that its dietary, worker, and ecological risks were unacceptable for all uses.
It is illegal to use or sell or these products under state and federal law. Any violation of Maryland’s Pesticide Applicator Law is subject to a fine of up to $25,000 and/or prison. These violations may also be subject to additional penalties from the EPA.
While it is not illegal to possess an unregistered or banned pesticide, it must be stored in compliance with state regulations and may not be used, sold, or traded. The department urges any individual in possession of carbofuran to responsibly dispose of the pesticide immediately.
The USFWS and Maryland Natural Resources Police are urging anyone with relevant and specific information to come forward. You can make an anonymous report to Maryland Wildlife Crime Stoppers by calling or texting, 443-433-4112 or you can email firstname.lastname@example.org. If the tip leads to the arrest and conviction, the Maryland Wildlife Crime Stoppers board of directors may issue a reward. A reward of up to $10,000 is being offered by the USFWS.
Several people have asked about search warrants on properties at or near where bald eagles have been found dead. In the post from WNAV yesterday (about the two retired Maryland State Police troopers), I didn’t, at the time of posting, have the information that was put out (around the same time) in a joint press release from MDA/DNR. I’ve included a lot of both in this post.
What should you know from all of this? That paragraph in the DNR/MDA release about possessing a banned pesticide is not illegal here in Maryland is, I believe, exactly where the problem lies. I can’t tell you what has and hasn’t been searched because I don’t know. That’s a law enforcement matter that, more than likely, won’t ever be released. I also won’t tell you about conversations that I’ve had that were off the record. What I can tell you that is, if carbofuran was found on properties – it’s not illegal to have it. It is illegal to use it, but proving use could be difficult.Yes, you read that right – being in possession of a federally banned pesticide that can kill animals and people (and that has killed many animals around the world and here in Maryland) isn’t illegal in Maryland.
How can that be? When the EPA bans a pesticide, it becomes illegal to sell, buy and use, but it’s up to the states to enact their own laws on registration and enforcement. No law, it appears, was ever enacted in Maryland to make possession of carbofuran illegal. That would have to be done through legislation.