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Bald Eagles Make Stunning Comeback from Brink of Extinction

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Monday, March 29, 2021   

MORMON LAKE, Ariz. -- Bald eagle populations in Arizona and across the nation have quadrupled in the last decade, after once being on the brink of extinction.

A new report from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found more than 315,000 bald eagles in the lower 48 states, including 70,000 nesting pairs, after years of conservation efforts and protections, including a ban on pesticides such as DDT.

John Kanter, senior wildlife biologist for the National Wildlife Federation, said the current numbers have exceeded biologists' expectations from the last few decades, after bald eagles reached an all-time low of slightly more than 400 nesting pairs in 1963.

"The thought now that there are many pairs nesting in the state, it's just, it's absolutely incredible," Kanter remarked. "I see eagles all the time. That's a recent phenomenon. "

Bald eagles were listed as endangered from 1973 until 2007.

Arizona wildlife officials report the number of nesting pairs in the state has grown from 11 in 1978 to 74 at the last count in 2019. Arizona closes camping areas and airspace over nesting sites during the mating season.

To avoid future declines, Kanter pointed out it's critical to continue monitoring bald eagles, and to be diligent in protecting birds from ingesting harmful chemicals and toxic substances.

He noted lead ammunition and fishing weights, which are particularly dangerous, are banned in some states, but not in Arizona.

"Birds like eagles and other fish-eaters die from ingesting that lead," Kanter explained. "And there's an easy practice that people can take right there to clean out the tackle box and switch to the nontoxic alternatives which are widely available."

While bald eagle populations are on the upswing, research shows other American bird populations are dropping. Nearly three billion birds have been lost in the last 50 years.

Kanter urged Congress to pass the Recovering America's Wildlife Act to protect species before they're on the brink of extinction.


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