GAME COMMISSION ANNOUNCES THAT EAGLE RECOVERY CONTINUES

 

HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania Game Commission employees’ efforts to save a young bald eagle have paid off, as the eaglet has spread its wings and flown from its adopted nest in Berks County.

“The story began this spring, when a strong windstorm damaged an eagle’s nest along Lancaster County’s Conestoga River,” said Doug Killough, Game Commission Southeast Region director.  “Half the nest blew away, and the three eaglets that were in it eventually fell to the ground.

“One eaglet died in the fall, and a predator killed a second eaglet.  However, a landowner and his daughters rescued the surviving eaglet, which sustained fractured ulna bones in both wings. The bird was taken to Tri-State Bird Rescue in Newark, Delaware, where, after several weeks of specialized care, the bird had recovered sufficiently enough to be returned to a wild nest.”

Game Commission Land Management Group Supervisor Steve Bernardi, who oversees State Game Lands in Snyder, Juniata, Mifflin and Perry counties, was called in to place the eaglet in a Berks County nest that contained one eaglet that had hatched within a week of the rescued bird. After he reached the nest, which was about 100 feet up in a huge pine tree, Bernardi waited for the young eagle to be delivered.

“We swaddled the bird in a large oval basket like a baby, placed the basket and bird into a duffle bag and hoisted the eaglet to the top of the tree,” explained Lancaster County Wildlife Conservation Officer Linda Swank, who helped manage the eaglet’s return to the wild, from the day it was rescued until it was placed in the nest. “Steve Bernardi, while hanging onto the side of the tree, had to undo the wrappings.  When he went to put the eaglet in the nest, the tricky part was to grab the eaglet the right way, as their talons are very sharp by this age.  A short time later, an adult female was seen feeding both eaglets.”

Berks County WCO Bob Prall has been working with Chip Hummel, of Auburn, who assists in monitoring the nest.

“On June 28, both eaglets were observed well off the nest and exercising their wings,” WCO Prall said.  “On July 3, Chip and I visited the nest and only one eaglet was present. It, too, was well off the nest exercising its wings.

“On July 5, Chip visited the nest and both eaglets were gone. He observed one of them in a tree at the reservoir. As of now, it appears both eaglets have successfully fledged and moved on.”

In late June, just before the nation’s Fourth of July celebrations, Game Commission officials announced that bald eagles have at least 120 nests within the state’s borders, marking one of the most phenomenal comebacks in the annals of America’s wildlife conservation.

As recently as 1983, there were only three eagles nests remaining in Pennsylvania. That year, the Game Commission began a seven-year bald eagle reintroduction program in which the agency sent employees to Saskatchewan to obtain eaglets from wilderness nests. Financial assistance for this effort was provided by the Richard King Mellon Foundation of Pittsburgh and the federal Endangered Species Fund. In all, 88 Canadian bald eagles were released from sites located at Dauphin County’s Haldeman Island and Pike County’s Shohola Falls.

“You can’t help but feel a sense of satisfaction whenever fieldwork and cooperation blossom into something as important and priceless as the return of the bald eagle,” said Carl G. Roe, Game Commission executive director. “These birds are a symbol of American freedom and epitomize our ruggedness and resolve as a people.

“The bald eagle’s comeback should put a smile on the face of every Pennsylvanian, because so many of us care about them. It’s obvious in the way people respond to news about the eagle’s return, and from their excitement when they see one. Eagles matter. A lot!”

The Game Commission, partnering with other states and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), helped to bring bald eagles back from the brink of extinction. The effort dovetailed with important gains made in improving water quality and other environmental reforms, which led to increases in the quality and quantity of freshwater fish, a staple in the eagle’s diet. Pennsylvania’s eagle resurgence also was likely stimulated by young eagles dispersing from the Chesapeake Bay, which now has hundreds of nesting pairs, and neighboring states that reintroduced eagles, too.

The Game Commission and USFWS currently classify the bald eagle as a threatened species.  On Oct. 4, 2005, the Board of Game Commissioners moved the bald eagle from the state’s endangered species list to its current place on the threatened species list.

In 1995, the USFWS moved the bald eagle from the federal endangered species to its threatened species list.  On August 8, the bald eagle will be delisted – no longer considered endangered or threatened – by the USFWS from the federal endangered species list. Eagles still will receive federal protection under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Currently, there are about 9,800 breeding pairs of bald eagles in the lower 48 states. As recently as 1963, the number of breeding pairs was 417. Vermont was the last contiguous state to host nesting eagles. In 2006, a Green Mountain State nest produced eaglets for the first time since reintroduction began.

To learn more about bald eagles and other threatened and endangered species, visit the Game Commission’s website (www.pgc.state.pa.us), click on “Wildlife” in the left column, then select  “Endangered and Threatened Species,” and choose “Bald Eagle” in the list of “Threatened Species.” Emails can be sent to biologists via: pgccomments@state.pa.us. Use the words “Eagle Nest Information” in the subject field.