WASHINGTON - A humane organization wants to figure out who shot and killed two bald eagles in Montgomery County in December -- and it is willing to pay thousands of dollars for information leading to an arrest.
The birds were shot dead within days of each other in Montgomery County. Maryland Department of Natural Resources police say the first bird was killed on Christmas Day in a field off of Georgia Avenue in Brookeville. Days later, a second bird was found wounded in Darnestown near Deakins Lane. That bird was so badly wounded it had to be euthanized.
The money pledged to the Maryland Natural Resources Police investigation, added to the financial commitment by three private citizens, brings the reward total to $8,000. The reward would be released upon the identification, arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the killings.
"Illegally shooting our national symbol is a heinous crime and we implore anyone with information to come forward. The Humane Society of the United States thanks the Maryland Natural Resources Police for all their tireless work to find those responsible," says Tami Santelli, Maryland state director for The Humane Society of the United States.
Elise Traub with Humane Society of the United States says poaching of eagles is more common than most people think.
"There is some market value for eagle parts," Traub says, adding that she thinks it's not the motive in the two Montgomery County shootings.
"We don't know for sure," she adds.
The first eagle that died, a juvenile, was shot and killed as it fed on the carcass of a deer in Brookeville. A second eagle, an adult with the distinctive white head and white tail feathers, was shot in Darnestown three days later.
Maryland Department of Natural Resources Police say there's no apparent link in the two cases, but the investigation continues. It's asking anyone with additional information to call their anti-poaching hotline at 800-635-6124 or contact the 24- hour Catch a Poacher Hotline.
Because the birds fall under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, Department of Natural Resources Police Corporal Daniel Yankie says the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, an agency that's part of the Department of Interior, gets involved in the prosecution of the cases.
Penalties include a $5,000 fine and a possible year in prison. Yankie says it's rare for such cases to be prosecuted in Maryland.