Ecosystem News Wildlife

Eagle populations recovering after conservation efforts

Bald eagle populations are growing after joint environmental efforts. Photo by Rebecca Mathews.

By Rebecca Mathews, CG Science

The bald eagle is believed to have found its place on our nation’s emblem because early in the morning, during one of the very first battles of the revolution, the commotion awoke eagles and they began to fly around the sky shrieking above all of the fighting men.  The patriots exclaimed that they were “shrieking for freedom.”  And it was then that the eagle became a national symbol of freedom, strength and free expansion into the limitless future.

Since then, eagles have continued to represent our nation, but their future has been far from limitless.  They have faced many dangers, such as contamination of their environment and hunting. Eagles have found themselves on the endangered species list at the end of the 20th century.

Many strong efforts were made to conserve and protect the bald eagle as soon as its name hit the list.  Ohio, along with other states, the federal government and Canada worked together to develop and implement the Northern States Bald Eagle Recovery Plan.

“The coordinated effort of state, federal, and provincial governments bordering the Great Lakes was essential for success,” explained Tom Bain, the bird conservation chair from the Ohio Ornithological Society.  “Ohio recovery resulted from concurrent efforts impacting the western basin of Lake Erie, the best remaining habitat for bald eagles in Ohio in the last quarter of the 20th century.”

Important legislation banned the use of the pesticide DDT.  The Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act and other legislation helped control contamination not only in Lake Erie but in all of Ohio’s waterways and recovered endangered species, including the bald eagle.

As legislation began to help protect the eagles, the number of nesting pairs left along the Lake Erie shorelines had taken a drastic plunge.  Only two or three pairs remained, and they had dangerously high levels of chemical contamination.

“Dieldrin concentrations (a toxic metabolite of DDT) in eagles, peregrine falcons, and other birds of prey caused reproductive failures,” Bain described.

Because these birds were unable to reproduce, Ohio’s recovery program raised and released eaglets that had been brought in from less contaminated areas of the U.S. and Canada.  The reintroduction was successful and made a huge impact on all of Ohio with the spread of eagles south of the lake.

After raising eaglets, recovery programs released the eaglets into the wild. Photo by Rebecca Mathews.


Jim McCormac, Ohio Division of Wildlife avian education specialist, avid photographer, blogger and nature enthusiast for as long as he can remember, has made much notice to the conservation of the bald eagles.

“The most amazing thing regarding eagles has been their phenomenal comeback from the doom and gloom days of the late 1970s. When I was a kid, seeing an eagle in Ohio was a huge deal,” he reminisced.

He explained that in 1979, there were only four known nests in all of Ohio, and the future seemed far from bright.   But with the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, the ban of the pesticide DDT and efforts made to clean up Ohio’s bodies of water, there are over 200 nests present in Ohio today–what McCormac describes as an amazing recovery.

McCormac encourages people to continue to protect the bald eagles by supporting organizations such as The Nature Conservancy, the Department of Natural Resources, parks and more.  By doing so, there is assurance that the land will be protected permanently and efforts to keep the waters clean will continue as well.


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