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Bald Eagle Populations Soaring

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Once near extinction, in 2020 there were an estimated 316,700 bald eagles in the lower 48 states, including 71,400 nesting pairs. (Frank Fichtmüller/Adobe Stock)
Once near extinction, in 2020 there were an estimated 316,700 bald eagles in the lower 48 states, including 71,400 nesting pairs. (Frank Fichtmüller/Adobe Stock)
 By Andrea Sears - Producer, Contact
March 29, 2021

NEW YORK -- A new report from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service showed there are now more than 316,000 individual American bald eagles in the lower 48 states, a fourfold increase since 2009.

In 1963, bald eagles were on the brink of extinction with only 417 nesting pairs found south of Alaska. But after banning the pesticide DDT, which made the shells of their eggs so weak they often broke before hatching, and with decades of conservation efforts, the population has grown to more than 71,000 breeding pairs.

John Kanter, senior wildlife biologist for the National Wildlife Federation, said the rebound of the iconic American species is nothing short of remarkable.

"We're now seeing the success go many times over I think what we as wildlife biologists and folks in conservation thought we would ever get to," Kanter remarked.

The bald eagle was removed from the list of endangered species under the Endangered Species Act in 2007 but continues to be protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Kanter pointed out going forward it's important to continue monitoring eagle populations and be aware of environmental threats such as new chemical pollutants.

He added people could take simple steps such as not using lead weights on fishing lines.

"Birds like eagles and other fish eaters die from ingesting that lead," Kanter explained. "And there's an easy practice that people can take right there to clean out the tackle box and switch to the nontoxic alternatives which are widely available."

He emphasized it's critical to identify the factors that put species of wildlife at risk and act on them quickly.

Kanter added that's one reason the National Wildlife Federation has made passage of the federal Recovering America's Wildlife Act a top priority.

"That would be over $1 billion going to states and tribal nations to work on getting ahold of species before they reach this critical need for endangered-species conservation," Kanter concluded.

Disclosure: The National Wildlife Federation contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Endangered Species and Wildlife, Energy Policy, Environment, Public Lands/Wilderness, Salmon Recovery, and Water. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
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