Police in Maryland are investigating the death of two bald eagles that were shot near Washington, D.C. in the last week.
According to D.C. Crime Stories, one of the birds was shot on Christmas day while it was feeding on a deer carcass in Brookville.
On Saturday, the second bird was found suffering from gun shot wounds at a home in Darnestown. X-rays later revealed that it had been injured with bird shot. That bird also died from its injuries.
"It's unusual to have them so close together," Maryland Natural Resources Police spokesperson Candy Thomson told WUSA. "But eagles get shot by accident on purpose. On most cases it's a case of mistaken identity, people think they're vultures or some other bird of prey."
"In some incidences though, it's just wanton destruction, somebody having a good time which is unfortunate," she said.
Bald eagles were taken off the endangered species list in 2007, but shooting them is still punishable by a $5,000 fine and up to one year in jail. However, a permit can be obtained from the Department of Interior to legally shoot the birds.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources has encouraged anyone with information about the shootings to call 410-260-8888. Callers who wish to remain anonymous can contact the Catch-A-Poacher hotline at 1-800-635-6124.
Watch the video below from WTTG, broadcast Dec. 30, 2013.
[Photo credit: A beautiful American Bald Eagle as it searches for prey via Shutterstock.com]