Bald Eagle Assessment – National Symbol Is Thriving In The Wild

Wildlife researchers in the United States are now saying that the bald eagle – the national symbol – has flown back from the brink of extinction and is now thriving in the wild. Sightings of bald eagles have increased greatly by members of the general public and conservationists are excited about new bald eagle nesting grounds cropping up across the country.

The bald eagle was chosen as the national symbol for the United States in 1792. Wildlife researchers say that at that point in history, the country may have been home to as many 100,000 nesting bald eagles. A major decline of bald eagle numbers was first noted in the mid-1800’s. In 1940, the Bald Eagle Protection Act made it illegal to harm the bird. However, after World War II, the widespread introduction of the pesticide DDT took a major toll on the bald eagle population in the United States. The use of DDT in the United States was finally banned in 1972, but by then the national symbol was on the brink of extinction and the most prominent member of the endangered species list.

Now, however, it seems that the bald eagle has made a more-than-healthy comeback in the last 40-odd years. Wildlife researchers now think that there are more than 69,000 bald eagles in the United States. Considering that there were only an estimated 487 nesting pairs in 1963, the comeback of the bald eagle is a tremendous success story.

Biologist Patti Barber from the Pennsylvania Game Commission commented on the new numbers.

“It’s hard to step away from the fact that they are our nation’s symbol and knowing that they’ve now come back from the brink. I think a lot of people have a lot of pride that we managed to do that.”

Now, however, the higher numbers of bald eagles are bringing new problems to the population in the U.S. Wildlife researchers in the United States are witnessing “an alarming number” of bald eagles being treated for injuries. Most of the wounds inflicted on the birds are actually from other bald eagles as the population competes for territory. Another issue to arise is that some bald eagles are nesting in residential area – areas where bald eagles don’t differentiate between mice and rabbits, and cats and small dogs when it comes to prey.

The sighting of a bald eagle at least at some point in the year has occurred in all 50 states except for Hawaii.

[Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images]