CUMBERLAND, Md. (WJZ) — A startling discovery in western Maryland has Department of Natural Resources Police trying to find who killed one of the nation’s most protected birds.

As Derek Valcourt explains, someone gunned down a bald eagle.

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DNR officials say it’s the first bald eagle to be shot in Maryland in nearly 10 years.

Majestic and regal, they are the national bird. They were brought back from the brink of extinction in the 90s, to the delight of bird watchers—who consider themselves lucky to spot one. That is why the discovery Friday of a dead bald eagle in Evitts Creek along Hazen Road in Cumberland is so alarming. DNR Police were called to private property where a homeowner found the eagle shot to death, halfway submerged in the water, sparking an investigation.

“We’re interviewing some local hunters that have permission to hunt those properties,” said DNR Police Sgt. Brian Albert.

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Though bald eagles are now off of the endangered species list and thriving—especially in the densely wooded areas of western Maryland—DNR Police point out they are still protected, making hunting and killing them illegal.

“Everyone knows that, from someone who lives in downtown Baltimore to out here in western Maryland,” Albert said.

It was one of more than 500 nesting pairs currently estimated to live in Maryland. It’s a loss bird watchers say someone should be held accountable for.

“That’s the American bird. That’s just wrong,” said Dawn Lison. “They’re beautiful. They basically show the strength [of] our nation [which] was built on a bird. I just can’t imagine someone wanting to shoot one.”

The punishment for killing a bald eagle is up to a year in jail and $100,000 in fines.

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Anyone with information on the eagle shooting is urged to call DNR Police or the poacher hotline at 1-800-635-6124.