TODAY

TODAY   |  December 27, 2013

Mysterious illness is killing bald eagles

Researchers are racing to identify a mysterious ailment  that has killed more than a dozen bald eagles so far in northern Utah. NBC’s Miguel Almaguer reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> issue facing an american treasure, the bald eagle . a mysterious illness that already killed more than a dozen of them but as miguel almaguer explains scientists are hoping for answers thanks to one family's dramatic rescue in utah .

>> reporter: what began as a family hike through utah 's rugged backcountry suddenly turned into a rescue. the bald eagle , one of our country's most majestic creatures was spotted in trouble by taylor and his father-in-law bob carter .

>> within seconds you can tell it's a bald eagle . the white head , the big yell low beak. it was immediate and it clearly couldn't fly.

>> reporter: using his go go pro camera he recorded the experience. they delicated wrapped the bird with it's six foot wingspan and razor sharp beak driving him to safety.

>> how is he doing?

>> he's nervous.

>> reporter: keeping the eagle calm at home until wildlife experts arrived.

>> then it became our friend and we took it home and watched football.

>> reporter: the eagle was brought here, to the wildlife rehabilitation center where it joined three other sick balanced eagles.

>> we don't have all the pieces of the puzzle together yet. so this could be the end of it or this could be the tip of the iceberg . we don't know.

>> reporter: it's alarming. so far this month, 16 balancd eagles died from the same illness. blood work from the birds discovered in this region have been sent to a lab for testing. those results could be back in days or weeks and could be the first clue into solving this mystery. bald eagles are no longer a endangered species but are still protected.

>> it's a symbol of our country. it's just what america stands for so to see one hurt or injured, that's not what you want to see.

>> reporter: but tonight in utah , something is killing this majestic creature and now the race against time to save them. miguel almaguer, nbc news, bountiful, utah .

>> just a beautiful anna, too.

>> that amazing footage too.

>> i thought that a majestic bird like that would have this amazing powerful -- but it's a tweet.

>> how was that again?

>> that's okay. it's is the