The bald eagles that were sickened/killed in Manchester, Md., in November 2021 was the result of secondary poisoning after scavenging on the remains of a deer that had been euthanized.
At least five eagles were poisoned – one died on the scene after flying into an electric line and four were sent to Phoenix Wildlife Center. Of those four, three were released back to the wild and one died of causes yet to be determined.
“The individual had put out a dead deer carcass for eagles to feed on, not knowing it had been euthanized,” stated Bridget Macdonald, public affairs specialist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “The individual collected what he thought was a roadkill deer in a neighboring county. It was a common practice of this individual to feed eagles during the winter [by putting out deer carcasses], just like you might put bird seed out for songbirds to eat.”
The deer had been hit by a car in a neighboring county and euthanized by a local veterinarian, according to Macdonald.
“The veterinarian did not tag or remove the deer after euthanizing it,” stated Macdonald. “It was left on the side of the road, where the individual’s son found it. The evidence showed that the individual feeding the eagles did not know that the carcass contained toxins. The veterinarian admitted to euthanizing the injured deer and leaving it on the roadside. Veterinarians are not required by any federal law to tag or remove euthanized deer. Tagging or removal, either by incineration or burial, may be mandated on a state-by-state basis, but it is not required in Maryland.”
“There is no federal law against feeding birds,” stated Maconald. “It’s recommended to know the history of the food being put out, regardless of what it is (meat, seed, etc.).”
The birds were discovered by William Fauntleroy of Manchester.
“I’m glad no one is in trouble for it – it wasn’t an intentional act.” said Fauntleroy. “I have a problem with the method of euthanasia and what it did to the birds.”
“The Phoenix Wildlife Center accepted four, downed eagles for rehabilitation, treatment for suspected poisoning by symptoms and released three,” said Kathleen Woods, executive director of the facility. “One was also treated for lead toxicity.”
The bird that was also treated for lead toxicity was one of the three that were released. Lead poisoning in eagles, which scavenge off of deer shot with lead ammunition, is not uncommon.
If you find wildlife in Maryland in need of assistance, contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator – the Maryland Wildlife Rehabilitators Association has a list, as does the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
Donna L. Cole is an award-winning investigative and multimedia reporter. She’s also a bird of prey rescuer.
Cover photo by William Fauntleroy