At least five bald eagles were poisoned Sunday after scavenging on a deer carcass in Manchester, Md.
One of the eagles is dead and four were taken to Phoenix Wildlife Center in Phoenix, Md.
According to Lauren Moses, public information officer for Maryland Natural Resources Police, “Our officers responded to the 4000 block of York Road in Manchester. When officers arrived, they met with a concerned wildlife photographer, who stated eagles nearby were acting strangely. According to the photographer, the eagles were feeding on a dead deer carcass. Suddenly, they began to fly strangely. One eagle also flew into a power line and died. As a result, the four remaining eagles were taken to Phoenix Wildlife Center for evaluation. Officers on the scene also properly buried the deceased deer to prevent any other wildlife from being potentially harmed.”
Though there’s been no confirmation on what sickened the birds, lead poisoning is a common issue with bald eagles. The birds will often scavenge on the remains of deer that were shot with lead ammunition.
In order to protect the critically endanger California condor, the state of California banned lead ammunition.
Other states, such as Pennsylvania, are asking hunters to consider switching to non-lead ammunition.
The state of New Jersey has also encouraged its hunters to switch to non-lead ammunition, as well as bury carcasses/gut piles.
And there’s no shortage of appeals from wildlife rehabilitators asking hunters to switch including the following –
William Fauntleroy, of Manchester, is the wildlife photographer that found the eagles and called for help.
Suzanne Shoemaker, director of Owl Moon Raptor Center, was on the receiving end of Fauntleroy’s call. She immediately dispatched volunteer rescuers Rick Hamilton and Valerie Seger, then coordinated arrangements with Natural Resources Police.
Fauntleroy doesn’t think it was lead – he said it appeared the eagles were in a drunken state and unable to fly.
“They weren’t lead poisoned,” he said. “When five of them fall out of the sky in an hour, that’s not lead – that’s strictly my opinion.”
Fauntleroy thinks there might be more sick or dead eagles out there and he plans on checking in the morning.
“There were 10 eagles here this morning,” he said. “Five or more of them were downed.”
Whatever the poison, it definitely wasn’t a usual photography outing for Fauntleroy.
“It was really kind of distressing,” he said.
Kathleen Woods, executive director of Phoenix Wildlife Center, was not available for comment as she was tending to the poisoned birds.
According to Moses, the “investigation is ongoing.”
This article will be updated to include the most recent information available.
Donna L. Cole is an award-winning multimedia and investigative reporter. She’s also a bird of prey rescuer.
Update (11/8/2022) – the case is still open and being investigated, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Update (8/17/2022) – the case is still open and being investigated, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Update (6/1/2022) – the case is still open and being investigated, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In other words, no additional information is available.
Update (11/29/2021) – Maryland Natural Resources Police confirmed another bald eagle (dead) was found in Manchester just days after four eagles were found sickened and one dead in the same area. This brings the total count to six eagles – four survived. According to Lauren Moses, NRP’s public information officer, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service “took possession of the that eagle for further evaluation.”
Update (11/10/2021) – According to Kathleen Woods, executive director of Phoenix Wildlife Center, “All four birds finally standing.” Woods also indicted samples from the birds were sent to PennVet’s lab at New Bolton Center for testing.
Update (11/9/2021) – According to Lauren Moses, public information officer for Maryland Natural Resources Police, “we are still actively investigating. However the officer did tell me he is to speak with the rehabilitation center sometime this week. So I will update you on that. However the four remaining eagles are reportedly doing better.”
Moses added the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will be getting a sample from the remains of the deer.
Donna L. Cole is an award-winning investigative and multimedia reporter. In her spare time, she’s a volunteer bird of prey rescuer.
Update (11/8/2021) – According to Kathleen Woods, executive director of Phoenix Wildlife Center, the four eagles brought to her Sunday were still alive as of 7 am Monday morning.
She doesn’t think it was lead poisoning.
“Lead doesn’t happen this way,” Woods said. “Lead is slow. They were showing classic signs of another type of poisoning – clenched feet, they can’t see properly and they become disoriented.”
She does have crop samples ready to go to a lab.
Photos of eagles courtesy of William Fauntleroy.