Bald eagles in 2016 Delaware case poisoned by carbofuran

WNAV has learned seven of the bald eagles found in Dagsboro, Delaware in March 2016 were poisoned by carbofuran, along with the fox they fed on, according to information received from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

At least five of the eagles died.

The birds were found on a farm field off of Bunting Road in the Piney Neck area of Dagsboro almost one month after 13 dead bald eagles were found poisoned by carbofuran after feeding off of a poisoned raccoon in Federalsburg, Md.

Another injured bald eagle was found over a mile away from the others in Dagsboro, however it was electrocuted on a utility pole, which has since been repaired according to the USFWS law enforcement records.

WNAV’s initial FOIAs for this case were rejected due to an open law enforcement case.

While one person received a written warning for possession of a kill trap from Delaware Fish and Wildlife Natural Resources Police, no additional charges were filed for the eagle deaths. The kill trap and carbofuran were discovered during a property search.

Evidence photo by Delaware Fish and Wildlife Natural Resources Police via U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Evidence photo by Delaware Fish and Wildlife Natural Resources Police via U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Carbofuran is an extremely toxic pesticide.

According to an Associated Press report from May 2009, ” The Environmental Protection Agency issued a final rule Monday banning the use of the pesticide carbofuran on food crops, saying it poses an unacceptable health risk, especially to children. The insecticide, sold under the brand name Furadan, has been under EPA review for years. Its granular form was banned in the mid-1990s because it was blamed for killing millions of migratory birds. The agency began its effort to remove the pesticide completely from the market in 2006.”

Though it’s illegal to buy, sell or use carbofuran in United States, possession of it is not illegal in Delaware or Maryland.

Following WNAV’s reporting about the multitude of carbofuran cases in Maryland, Beth Decker, executive director of Safe Skies Maryland, a conservation initiative focused on human-caused bird mortality issues, drafted a bill to be presented to Maryland’s General Assembly to ban of the possession of carbofuran in Maryland. Initial efforts to present this bill were delayed last session.

In the Dagsboro case, according to USFWS records, the carbofuran was voluntarily given up for safe disposal. The kill trap was seized.

Between 2009 and 2019, at least 30 bald eagles have been killed on Maryland’s Eastern Shore by carbofuran:

  • 2009 – Cordova farm (2 eagles)
  • 2012 – Easton farm (2 eagles)
  • 2014 – Preston farm ( 1 eagle)
  • 2016 – Federalsburg farm (13 eagles)
  • 2017 – Easton farm (5 eagles)
  • 2019 – Chestertown farm (6 eagles + 1 great horned owl)
  • 2019 – Cordova farm (1 eagle)

In some of these cases, including the 2019 incidents in Chestertown and Cordova, not all of the bald eagles died – some were treated and released. Since all of these cases happened during bald eagle nesting season, it’s likely eggs and young eaglets were affected – it takes two, adult eagles to incubate and safeguard eggs, then protect and feed young eaglets. Most of the birds poisoned in the Dagsboro case were juveniles.

If you or anyone you know has carbofuran, it should be disposed of properly. For Delaware, click HERE for instructions. For Maryland, see below.

Maryland Department of Agriculture Carbofuran Advisory

Further reading – The Carbo Wars

Donna L. Cole is a journalist that works for WNAV News in Annapolis. She hosts the “1430 Connection,” a weekly radio show. In the spring and summer of 2018, Donna broke the story about carbofuran, a federally banned pesticide, being illegally used and resulting in the death of 13 bald eagles in Federalsburg, Md. in 2016 – this reporting led to global news coverage. Donna continued her reporting about the bald eagle poisonings through 2019 and into 2020, exposing what she has referred to as a “dirty little secret” that has been happening on Maryland’s Eastern Shore for decades.  For her reporting work on the eagle poisonings, Donna received the Society of Professional Journalists DC Pro Chapter Dateline Awards for Investigative Journalism in 2019 and 2020, as well as the 2018 Chesapeake Associated Press Broadcasters Association Outstanding Enterprise Journalism award and the 2019 Chesapeake Associated Press Broadcasters Association award for Documentary/In-Depth Reporting ward. Her work also led to changes in pesticide licensing regulations in Maryland, the first ever carbofuran pesticide advisory being issued by the state of Maryland and the announcement of a bill to ban to the possession of carbofuran to be introduced to the Maryland General Assembly.

Leave a Reply