Four bald eagles are recovering in Phoenix, Maryland, from a strange illness that left them incapable of flying for several days.
The convocation of bald eagles was spotted by a wildlife photographer in Manchester, Maryland, Sunday. A total of five eagles were eating a deer carcass near York Road when one of them tried to fly away. That bird hit a power line and died.
Maryland Natural Resources Police officers on the scene buried the carcass to prevent any other wildlife from being potentially harmed. It is still unclear if the deer caused the illness.
The other four were sent to the Phoenix Wildlife Center in Baltimore County.
Kathleen Woods, the director at the center, told WTOP that the birds of prey were “lifeless” when they were admitted. They have since recovered and, as of Thursday morning, they were able to stand.
Authorities sent samples from the eagles to a toxicology lab in Pennsylvania but results are still pending. Woods said, with information, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife department can work backwards to determine the cause of the illness.
Bald eagles get sick from many things, but Woods said the most common cause of illness is lead poisoning.
“Two thirds of all eagles admitted have some evidence of ingested lead,” Woods said.
Lead can often come from bullets lodged in animals from hunters. Scavengers like the bald eagle will often eat those bullets as they feast on a carcass.
In the past, a similar illness was found in cases across the country. During the 1990s, dozens of Eagles died from a toxic algae bloom in Arkansas. That was only determined this year.
While bald eagles are of least concern for conservation status, they are still a protected species in the United States.