Up to 2,000 hawks, doves, ducks, geese and other birds within half a mile of a Georgia farm died after feeding on corn that had been laced with insecticide and left out in the open as bait, state officials said Thursday.
"Some birds were just feathers and skeletons and some birds were just alive and dying," said Sgt. Mitch Yeargin of the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division law enforcement branch. "I tried to pick up a seemingly alive bird, but it flew up to a limb and fell down."
Investigators said that based on interviews they conducted, they believe the corn had been used as bait at the farm to get rid of nuisance wildlife. The investigators would not say what species of wildlife were targeted, and they said they have not established who put the corn out.
In Georgia, poisoning wildlife is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine for each animal harmed.
No arrests had been made Thursday, and officials would not say who owned the farm.
Deborah Mosher called authorities after seeing dozens of dead and dying birds on her land, near the fishing-pond dam where the tainted corn was found Wednesday.
"I just went out that morning to put out laundry and saw a few birds and started looking around and saw more and more birds," Mosher said.
Investigators found 500 carcasses in different states of decay, but snowfall prevented them from making a complete count. They estimated 1,000 to 2,000 birds were killed.
Federal officials are involved in the investigation because the deaths include protected migratory birds and because of the possible misuse of a pesticide. No endangered or threatened birds had been found as of Thursday, wildlife officials said.
Officials said they were told the insecticide probably was Warbex, which is commonly used to reduce lice on cattle.
Four years ago, state and federal wildlife authorities fined four quail-hunting plantations in south Georgia for deliberately poisoning chicken eggs to kill predators that eat quail eggs.