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3 bald eagles die, 10 others fall sick after scavenging on euthanized animals dumped in landfill

The animals, whose carcasses were dumped at a Minnesota landfill, had been euthanized with pentobarbital, a death penalty drug
Veterinarians suspect the birds had eaten animals euthanized with pentobarbital (Screenshot/KSTP)
Veterinarians suspect the birds had eaten animals euthanized with pentobarbital (Screenshot/KSTP)

DAKOTA COUNTY, MINNESOTA: Three bald eagles died and 10 others are sick after eating the remains of animals that were euthanized with a death penalty drug and dumped on a Minnesota landfill site. State and federal wildlife officials are investigating after the majestic birds were found near the Pine Bend Landfill in the Minneapolis suburb of Inver Grove Heights. The University of Minnesota Raptor Center's executive director Victoria Hall said she is optimistic that the remaining 10 birds, which are in intensive care, will fully recover. 

Hall added that Raptor Center workers were not sure if the birds were alive as some of them were lying motionless face down in the snow. The animals whose remains poisoned the eagles had previously been euthanized with pentobarbital. The drug is used by euthanasia doctors in some countries that permit assisted dying and by some executioners in the United States. According to The Minneapolis Star Tribune, investigators confirmed that some euthanized animals had been brought to the landfill on December 2 and veterinarians suspect that the eagles that died had eaten part of a carcass of an animal that had been euthanized with pentobarbital.


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Hall said chemically euthanized animals should be dumped in such a manner that other animals can't feed on them. However, it is as yet unclear what type of animal remains the birds fed on or why they were put down. Three eagles out of the 11 which were brought to The Raptor Center had lead poisoning and one eagle that was found to have bird flu died. Two other eagles were found dead near the landfill.

A fundraiser has been arranged to help pay for the eagles' care and has so far raised $7,100 out of a $10,000 goal. The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in the US protect bald eagles and golden eagles since 1940 when Congress passed it as federal law.

According to the offices of Chicago-based Criminal Defense Attorney Hal M Garfinkel, criminal penalties include a maximum fine of $5,000, imprisonment of one year, or both. Penalties are doubled when a person is found in violation of the Act for a second time. Additionally, when a person is convicted, any person who reported the crime will be paid $2,500. The Act makes it illegal to own, sell, hunt, or even offer to sell, hunt, or own, bald eagles. It also applies to trading and being in possession of eagle feathers, nests, eggs, and any body part of an eagle.

Even harassing an eagle is considered against the law under the Act, even if the eagle is not injured or killed as a result. The state with the largest bald eagle population is Alaska with an estimation of 30,000 birds, according to The American Eagle Foundation. Minnesota and Florida are second and third among the 46 other states. Hawaii is the only state where bald eagles don't migrate, claims Journey North, which is part of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum.