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Jun 252010
 

The bald eagle has symbolized freedom in America for more than 225 years. (Photo: Hal Korber | PGC)

From Green Right Now reports

The bald eagle’s amazing recovery from the brink of extinction in this state continues as America prepares to celebrate the birth of its independence, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission. So far this year, 192 bald eagle nests – in 50 counties – have been recorded in Pennsylvania. As recently as 1983, only three Crawford County nests remained in the state.

The bald eagle has symbolized freedom in America for more than 225 years. When the founding forefathers were deliberating what should appear on the Great Seal in the 1780s, America was believed to be home to as many as 100,000 nesting pairs of bald eagles in the Lower 48. By the 1960s, that number would drop to less than 500 pairs. Today, eagle nesting pairs are believed to number about 10,000.

“The bald eagle’s remarkable comeback is a product of sound and progressive wildlife management and environmental reform,” Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe said in a statement. “Here was a species that was so smitten by the deleterious ecological consequences associated with DDT that it was barely hanging on in the Lower 48. But today, the bald eagle is back in numbers that haven’t been seen here or elsewhere in America since before the Civil War.

“As wildlife managers, we are proud of that accomplishment. It is the product of sound science, interstate and international cooperation and commitment to the resource. As bald eagles continue to move closer and closer to this state’s urban settings, more and more Pennsylvanians will get to appreciate the progress that has been made with this symbolic species. And they will. Immediately. Their presence is that captivating!”

However, officials said it is important to remember that the relatively recent appearance of bald eagles around Philadelphia, and now Pittsburgh, is related to what’s been happening in the more remote areas of the state, where eagles have been moving in at a phenomenal pace. It doesn’t hurt, though, that both cities are strategically located along major river systems with good fisheries.

The 192 bald eagle nests recorded this spring include eight that were built, but where pairs did not lay eggs. Pennsylvania counties with the largest number of known nesting pairs are: Crawford, 22; Lancaster, 16; Pike, 16; Mercer, 11; and York 11.

State officials cautioned that reporting on eagle nests is anything but an exact science. In 2009, the June nest count was at least 170; that number increased by four until year’s end. In 2008, the June estimate was 140 known nests; the final nest count was 156. The agency learns of new nests with increasing regularity from the public. Some of the latest reported were found by birders walking trails in off-road locations.

Pennsylvania residents aware of a bald eagle nest – they are among the largest nests of all birds – in their area should consider reporting it to the Pennsylvania Game Commission. The easiest way to contact the agency is through email at pgccomments@state.pa.us. Use the words “Eagle Nest Information” in the subject field.

Although Pennsylvania’s bald eagle nesting population has been increasing, it hasn’t been without some bumps along the way. More nests means more eaglets are usually involved in nest collapses caused by spring snowfall and strong winds, or find themselves on the forest floor and at the mercy of predators as a result of juvenile missteps spurred by bad weather or human activities.

In Mercer County, Wildlife Conservation Officer Don Chaybin was led by David Wade, of Jamestown, to an eagle nest blow-down in Greene Township where the officer found two eaglets, one dead, the other badly injured. Their nest tree had been uprooted by high winds during a Memorial Day thunderstorm.

“The nestlings were almost ready to fledge and they must have ridden the nest to the ground,” Chaybin explained. “Unfortunately, one was killed outright and the surviving eagle was severely injured. It was taken to Sue DeArment, at the Tamarack Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Center, who worked with Dr. Ken Felix, of the Glenwood Pet Hospital in Erie, to treat the bird. In spite of everyone’s efforts, the young eagle died a week later of unknown causes.”

More eagles and nests are placing an increased burden on wildlife rehabilitators. “Our wildlife rehabilitators are taking on an increasing load of work to nurture and restore the health of eaglets so they can be reintroduced into the wild,” Gross noted.  ”Bill and Stephanie Streeter, at the Delaware Valley Raptor Center in Milford, also have been caring for some downed young eagles. I can’t say enough about the good things our licensed wildlife rehabilitators are doing. They really do deserve recognition and the public’s support!”

Even with the bald eagle population’s impressive response to improving environmental conditions in Pennsylvania and America, the species still has plenty of quality open range to occupy before it will be proposed for delisting in Pennsylvania. That the species is building nests in the shadows of Pennsylvania’s largest cities is gratifying, officials said.

The Game Commission continues to heighten its efforts to further the public’s understanding of bald eagles. A comprehensive bald eagle endangered species account and bald eagle nest etiquette guide have been added recently to the agency’s website at www.pgc.state.pa.us. The references are found under Endangered Species.