Bald eagles were facing extinction, but they came back and their population is booming. With protections in place, the birds should breathe easy, but the challenges are not over.
When the bald eagle was selected as our national bird - over Ben Franklin's choice, the turkey - there were more than 100,000 nesting eagles. In the 1800s, the bald eagle population started to decline, as did populations of waterfowl, shorebirds and other birds of prey, according to SMN Weekly. The Bald Eagle Protection Act of 1940 placed the bald eagle on the endangered list.
Though federal protection meant the bald eagle couldn't be harmed intentionally, the pesticide DDT and lead contamination after World War II only aggravated the downward trend, and by 1963, there were only 487 nesting eagles left. DDT was banned by the U.S. (and later, by Canada), and by 1990, the bald eagle was off the endangered list, according to Tech Times.
Now, with at least 69,000 bald eagle nests, the bald predators face another challenge - space. Lisa Smith, head of the Tri-state Bird Rescue and Research Inc. in northern Delaware, told SMN Weekly that she is seeing a lot of bald eagles with injuries that seem to be caused by other bald eagles competing for suitable habitat.
Pennsylvania Game Commission biologist Patti Barber sees the fight for space as not such a bad problem to have, comparatively. "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," she told SMN Weekly.
"I think a lot of people have a lot of pride that we managed to do that."