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Five sick bald eagles found in Carroll County, Md., prompting investigation

Several bald eagles were found Sunday near Manchester, Md. They were “acting strangely” and taken to a wildlife rehabilitation center. (Courtesy of William Fauntleroy)
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Maryland wildlife officials said they’re investigating after five bald eagles were found in Carroll County acting strangely and apparently sick.

The eagles were found Sunday by William Fauntleroy near York Road and Route 86 in the Manchester area, just south of the Pennsylvania border.

Fauntleroy said he noticed an eagle near his mailbox and thought it was acting oddly and appeared to be unable to fly. He said he noticed the eagles were feeding on a deer carcass, and one of the eagles flew into a power line and died.

“I saw some were flying poorly,” Fauntleroy said. “One seemed like it couldn’t get off the ground and couldn’t fly. It was acting like it was drunk.”

Five bald eagles were found struggling to fly near Manchester, Md. The birds were caught and taken to a rehab center in Baltimore County for care. (Video: Courtesy of William Fauntleroy)

Fauntleroy got help from area wildlife rescuers who got the four other eagles to the Phoenix Wildlife Center in Phoenix, Md., which is in Baltimore County, where they’re being cared for.

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The story of the strange-acting bald eagles was first reported by Annapolis Creative, an online news website produced by Donna L. Cole, a journalist and rescuer of birds of prey.

According to Cole’s Twitter feed, the executive director of the Phoenix Wildlife Center said Wednesday morning that “all four birds [were] finally standing.”

Cole said Wednesday that one of the eagles had been rescued after falling into a creek and wasn’t “doing as well” as the others.

Lauren Moses, a spokesperson for the Maryland Natural Resources Police, said her department is “actively investigating” to figure out what happened to the bald eagles.

She said the deer carcass that the sick birds had been feeding on was buried in the area so that no other wildlife would eat it.

Moses also said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials were expected to take samples from the deer carcass for analysis. A spokesperson for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did not immediately return a call and an email for comment.

It’s not exactly clear what caused the eagles, which are a federally protected species, to act oddly, experts said.

Some wildlife experts believe it was related to possible poisoning or something unknown in the deer carcass that they were seen eating. Fauntleroy said he believes there was “something toxic” in the deer carcass that sickened the birds.

It is not uncommon for bald eagles and other scavenger birds to become ill or die after eating the remains of animals that ingested pesticides or were shot with lead ammunition. Other wildlife experts said they don’t believe the eagles were poisoned by lead because that’s often a slower process.

Cole said the Phoenix Wildlife Center also sent samples from the inside of the eagles’ stomachs to a lab in Pennsylvania for analysis. She said she expects that the samples from the deer carcass and the eagles will “yield some clues” as to what happened to the birds.

“It’s just too early to call it,” Cole said. “The good news is they’re doing better.”

In a Facebook post Wednesday, officials at the Phoenix Wildlife Center wrote about the eagles that were found “acting erratically,” and they thanked those who helped the birds to get to wildlife rehabilitators.

“Was it poison? Was it an algae bloom? Was it something else? We don’t have answers yet,” the post read.

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In 2018, wildlife officials found that 13 bald eagles were poisoned by a chemical called carbofuran, which is a pesticide that’s now off the market. The eagles were found dead on a Maryland farm in 2016 but investigators couldn’t figure out — even after a six-month investigation — who killed the birds.