The Center for Biological Diversity released this week a report stating that the bald eagle population in the contiguous United States is about 11,040 pairs. That’s an increase of nearly 1,300 bald eagles counted last year by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Oklahoma mirrors what is happening nationwide. Researchers have counted 60 pairs of bald eagles in the state, up 30 fold from 1973 (the same year the Endangered Species Act was enacted).
It’s estimated that 500,000 bald eagles inhabited the United States when the Pilgrims arrived in the early 1600s. About 420 bald eagles were counted in 1963 in the contiguous United States.
“The bald eagle’s recovery from the edge of extinction is one of the world’s great conservation success stories. The eagle has returned to every single state in the lower 48, though it has yet to successfully fledge a nestling in Vermont,” said Kieran Suckling, Center for Biological Diversity policy director.
The bald eagle was named a national symbol on June 20, 1782, but suffered terrible abuses due to the mistaken belief that it was a dangerous predator, Suckling said. Bald eagles were fed to hogs in Maine, shot from airplanes in California, poisoned in South Dakota and hunted for half-dollar bounties in Alaska.
Bald eagle populations rebounded in response to the banning of Dichloro-Diphenyl-Trichloroethane (DDT), protection from killing, habitat protection and restoration, artificial incubation of eggs, fostering of chicks and reintroduction of eaglets.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service changed the bald eagle’s status from endangered to threatened in 1995 and is expected to remove it from the threatened list by the end of this month.