Revisiting the Bald EagleBy sbuksh | February 18th, 2009 | Category: News |
With about 10,000 nesting bald eagles in 1782, the great American Bald Eagle was declared a national symbol. After World War II, these numbers dramatically decreased to the point where the bald eagle was placed on the endangered species list. Then as miraculously as possible, it became delisted in 2007. Feelings of joyful sentiments have filled the watchers of the bald eagle and perhaps in you as well, once you finish my story.
I got the opportunity to speak with the chief of public affairs of the pacific region of fish & wildlife service. “It is a great endangered species success story, and their recovery is more than just the banning of DDTs”, Joan Jewett said when I asked her thoughts on the 2007 delisting.
According to the U.S. Department of the Interior’s press release on June 28th 2007: DDT is a pesticide that was widely used after World War II, as DDT accumulated in eagles it caused them to lay eggs with weakened shells, decimating the eagle population across the nation. Jewett explained it more clearly when she said: “DDT’s would get in the environment and eagles would get it in their systems by eating dead things, this resulted in their shells thinning and breaking before eagle chicks were only enough to live”.
What steps led to the removal of the bald eagle from the endangered species list?
Jewett mentioned that the bald eagle underwent a monitoring process where the numbers of eagles are counted, as part of a recovery plan. From there, Fish and Wildlife service along with the U.S. Department of the Interior implemented a strategy for recovering species and create the species criteria. “When the species reaches recovery goals we usually move to delist a species”, Jewett said. Close attention was also paid to captive breeding, which was the number of groups that raised eagles in captivity and released them to the wild. Along with the unfavorable effects of DDT, many bald eagles died from factors such as lead poisoning, electrocution and careless, malicious hunters.
By 1963, only 417 nesting pairs of bald eagles were left. At this point, the species was close to being extinct.
How can you classify between “endangered” and a “threatened” species?
According to FWS, “endangered means a species is considered in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range”. “Threatened means a species is considered likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future, but is not currently in danger of extinction”. After reading this, you might think that the bald eagle would be put in the latter category. Yet, it surprised me when Jewett told me that they are considered fully recovered, and no longer protected by the endangered species list meaning that they are not “threatened”.
The bald eagle has recovered!
Today, the bald eagle is still placed in the Bird Treaty Act and Golden Eagle Protection Act. “Both of these laws prohibit killing, selling or otherwise harming eagles, their nests, or eggs”. The FSW is active in maintaining these regulations, guidelines on their webpage help with preventive measures: how landowners can avoid disturbing eagles by maintaining old growth shoreline trees, and encouraging beneficial conservation practices. FSW is currently working with state wildlife agencies to monitor the status of bald eagles for at least five years as required from the Endangered Species Act. “The bald eagle delisting remains a great American success story” Jewett said in monotone to her first few words, as we wrap up our interview together.
The bald eagle was adopted primarily for the strength and determination that resembled our nation receiving its independence, isn’t it ironic that decades later it receives an elated freedom of its own?
The next time you see the bald eagle imprinted on a postage package or stamp, smile for the victory of 2007. It is never too late to commemorate the recovery of our great legendary American Bald eagle: Welcome back!
For additional information on the bald eagle delisting, you may refer to:
FWS press release:
Bald Eagle Recovery Q&A:
Bald Eagle Protection Management:
Bald Eagle monitoring plan:
Activities to celebrate bald eagle recovery: