Bald eagles are synonymous with America, a symbol of the country’s history and hope. Yet 13 of these majestic birds have died in what is being called the “the worst eagle kills” ever seen.  Even worse, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) says humans are responsible for what is the largest group death of bald eagles in 30 years.

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A local man walking in a Federalsburg, Maryland field found dead eagles and reported to the Maryland Natural Resources Police. The USFWS examined the birds for signs of a natural death from diseases like avian flu, but autopsies revealed a sadder truth: the deaths were “human-caused.”

Related: Michigan’s bald eagles are the most contaminated birds in the world

Bald eagles are no longer on the endangered species list due to effective conservation measures. However, they continue to be federally protected under the Bald and Gold Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Those who violate these acts by intentionally harming eagles could pay $100,000 and $15,000 in fines, and spend a year in jail.

“This is a big deal,” said Candy Thomson, spokesperson for the Maryland Natural Resources Police. “It’s not only the number of eagles. It’s the fact that eagles are beloved. People have a pride in the fact that we brought eagles back…This area where the eagles died is a wonderful eagle habitat. There’s a wildlife management area right there. This is not what you expect in a place like this.”

The USFWS is asking citizens to help find whomever killed the eagles. Together with conservation organizations, they’re offering rewards totaling $25,000 for information. USFWS assistant special agent Neil Mendelsohn said, “We know these were human-caused deaths and someone has got to know something. This is a very serious situation; the worst eagle kills I’ve seen.”

Please call Special Agent John LaCorte at (410) 228-2476 or the Maryland Natural Resources Police at (800) 628-9944 if you know anything that could lead to a conviction.

Via Gizmodo

Lead image via MDNR, images via Public Domain Images and Ragamuffin Brian on Flicker