WASHINGTON - Killing bald eagles is a crime - the birds are federally protected. But whoever shot two bald eagles in Maryland last week may not know that.
The birds were shot dead within days of each other in Montgomery County, and police want to find whoever was responsible.
Maryland Department of Natural Resources police say the first bird was killed on Christmas Day. The bird was feeding on the carcass of a deer in a field off of Georgia Avenue in Brookeville. A photographer had stopped and was taking pictures when the bird was shot and killed.
Days later, a second bird was found wounded in Darnestown near Deakins Lane. Department of Natural Resources Police Corporal Daniel Yankie says that bird later died.
Yankie says bald eagles are sometimes shot accidentally.
"Sometimes a person can't identify what they're shooting at - whether they're trying to scare something off of their pond or away from their chickens," he says.
But other times, Yankie says the shooting of the federally protected bird is just "wanton waste."
Yankie says it doesn't appear that the two shootings are related.
Because the birds fall under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, 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.
Maryland Department of Natural Resources police ask anyone with information to contact the 24-hour Catch a Poacher Hotline.
WTOP's Kate Ryan contributed to this report. Follow @WTOP on Twitter.
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