Furthermore, the bald eagles' recovery is not limited to Pennsylvania. In New York, the eagle population jumped from four pairs in the 1980s to 170 breeding pairs today. Ohio Division of Wildlife Administrator Dave Scott told me this week that Ohio had 194 active nests in 2011, and he expected a similar number this year. Maryland stopped counting eagles in 2004 when the nesting population reached 393 pairs. Maine has more than 500 active nests, and Michigan reports more than 700 pairs of bald eagles. Florida and Wisconsin each claim more than 1,000 pairs this year, and Minnesota reports more than 2,300 pairs. Even mountainous West Virginia has had as many as 19 breeding pairs.
Many factors contributed to the recovery of bald eagles, but several stand out. Federal law, for example, gives bald eagles complete protection. The days of widespread, senseless slaughter are over.
The understanding that DDT cripples bald eagle reproduction was critical. This led to a DDT ban that enables eagles to lay and incubate healthy eggs. DDT caused eggshells to thin so they cracked under the weight of incubating adults.
Then many states initiated aggressive reintroduction campaigns to jump-start the declining populations. Pennsylvania's seven-year bald eagle restoration program, begun in 1983, introduced 88 eaglets from Canada. New York and New Jersey followed a similar strategy. As these birds reached reproductive maturity in four or five years, they began to breed successfully. The rest is history.
Credit state and federal wildlife agencies for the bald eagle's recovery. In 1982 bald eagles were critically endangered. In 1994, they were upgraded from endangered to threatened status. In 2007, they were delisted nationally as threatened. Today, they nest in all states except Hawaii. That is success by any measure.
Send questions and comments to Dr. Scott Shalaway, 2222 Fish Ridge Road, Cameron, WV 26033 or email sshala...@aol.com.