Federal wildlife authorities and a group of nonprofit organizations are offering a $10,000 reward for information that leads to a conviction in the deaths of 13 bald eagles found Saturday on a Caroline County farm.
But despite that offer, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokeswoman Catherine Hibbard said it's still not clear how the birds died or whether a crime was even committed.
Though no longer considered an endangered species, bald eagles are protected by federal law.
Federal agents were heading to the scene Monday to investigate further, Hibbard said. The bodies of the birds were to be sent to a forensic lab in Oregon for analysis.
Police were called to the farm near the 3,800-acre Idylwild Natural Area after a man searching for shed deer antlers discovered four dead birds. Officers with the Maryland Natural Resources Police searched the area and found nine more carcasses.
"This area would be prime eagle habitat," police spokeswoman Candy Thomson said. "Lots of good fishing, lots of good habitat, lots of good hunting."
The birds showed no signs of trauma, Thomson said, but investigators believe they all died within a relatively short span of time.
One possibility is that the birds died after eating rodents that had been poisoned, Thomson said.
Investigators have been going door to door searching for leads, Thompson said. The property owner has been interviewed.
Neither the property owner nor the man who found the first birds could be reached for comment Monday.
The 13 deaths were the most in a single die-off of bald eagles in Maryland in at least 30 years, Thomson said. The next-largest incident involved eight birds in the 1980s.
The Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust are offering a reward of up to $5,000. The Phoenix Wildlife Center Inc., a wildlife rehabilitation center for raptors, songbirds and small mammals in Northern Baltimore County, and federal wildlife authorities are each offering $2,500.
Federal investigators asked anyone with information call the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement in Cambridge at 410-228-2476.