Someone in Garrett County has shot and killed Maryland's most rare bird, the only known nesting northern goshawk.

Natural Resources Police confirmed the death of the raptor, which is on the state's endangered species list. Without the female to protect and provide for them, the three chicks in the nest died as well.

The Maryland Legislative Sportsmen's Foundation is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the shooter. NRP is asking anyone with information about the crime to call the Poacher Hot Line: 1-800-635-6124.

The goshawk's nest, near Savage River State Forest close to the intersection of Westernport and McAndrews Hill road, was being closely monitored by Department of Natural Resources biologists because of the bird's "highly rare" status. Dave Brinker noticed the absence of an adult at the nest in early June and found the carcass last Friday. The shooting occurred outside any legal hunting season.

"You'd like to think that in this day and age, these things don't happen," said Brinker, who has led the state's efforts to restore the bird for the last 30 years. "We'll try and get something good out of this, use it to educate. This is not the right way to behave in 2011."

Maryland's northern goshawks were driven to extinction in the 1900s by the logging industry's harvesting of Appalachian Plateau forests. In 1991 and 1997, the federal government rejected calls to list the bird on the endangered species list. Many states, including Maryland, responded by placing the goshawk on their own lists. In North America, the goshawk is federally protected under an amendment to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

However, in the last decade, three or four pairs returned to breed in Garrett County's dense canopy of maturing forests only to move on, Brinker said.

On its endangered species list, DNR notes that they are "critically imperiled in Maryland," with five or fewer birds remaining in the state.

Adult goshawks are dark gray with white feathers that look like eyebrows and red eyes. They are intense hunters, pursuing large birds, squirrels, rabbits, and hares. Attila the Hun wore an image of a northern goshawk on his helmet and the bird of prey adorns the flag of the Azores.

The birds are known for their territoriality, fiercely defending their nests, even attacking people who get too close.

"To have the staff put their hearts and souls into this and have this happen is just heartbreaking," said Paul Peditto, head of DNR's Wildlife and Heritage Service. "We need to have someone come forward. We need someone willing to do the right thing."

candy.thomson@baltsun.com

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