Police are looking for information of how two bald eagles were shot and killed in Montgomery County over the past week.
One of the eagles was shot with a rifle at about 3 p.m. Christmas Day in a field between Georgia Avenue and Bordley Road in Brookville, according to the Maryland Natural Resources Police. The bird was feeding on a deer carcass when it was shot, police said.
Another eagle was found Saturday near a residence on Deakins Lane in Darnestown. The bird was alive when it was discovered, but it died of its injuries. Police said an X-ray showed the eagle had been hit by bird shot.
Candy Thomson, a spokeswoman for the natural resource police, said it is possible that the bird in Brookville was shot in a case of “mistaken identity” because the bird had some white feathers but “did not have its full component of white” — the signature white feathers on its head that bald eagles are known for.
“You see a bird sitting on a carcass of a deer and somebody might think they’re shooting at a vulture,” she said.
In the case in Darnestown, Thomson said, officials were concerned because the bird “came down in a residential area and someone was possibly shooting where they shouldn’t have been.”
At this time of year, bald eagles are in their “active courtship,” officials said. They lay eggs inland along the upper Chesapeake Bay in late February or early March. The eggs typically hatch in April.
The bald eagle has previously been under protection on the Endangered Species Act but was removed from that list in 2007. It was taken off Maryland’s endangered species list in 2010. In Maryland, officials said, there are more than 500 nesting pairs of bald eagles.
It is illegal, however, to shoot eagles without a permit from the U.S. Department of the Interior.
A conviction carries a maximum fine of $5,000 and up to one year in prison.
Anyone with information is asked to call 800-635-6124. Officials said a reward is possible.