Protection of the Bald Eagle


bald eagleWhat caused the eagle's decline?

  • The bald eagle population declined for a number of reasons.
  • Settlement of our nation led to human encroachment and habitat destruction
  • Bald eagles were killed for trophies
  • Eagles were persecuted because of people's prejudices toward predators.
  • The widespread use of and insecticide called DDT. Eagles were ingesting DDT through their main food-source, fish. DDT in eagles' blood stream, resulted in thin-shelled eggs that seldom hatched. This affect on reproduction had a detrimental affect on eagle populations.

The eagle's return?

When adopted as the nation's symbol in 1782, eagles inhabited every large river and major concentration of lakes in North America. The population flourished and there were an estimated 20,000 nesting pairs in what is now the United States.

By the late 1800s, the bald eagle's population and range had been reduced to the point that most of the remaining birds were restricted to Alaska, Canada, the Great Lakes states, Florida and the Pacific Northwest. By 1963, only 417 nesting pairs were found in the lower 48 United States.

After decades of federal protection, as well as public and private recovery efforts, eagle populations have increased 7-fold since the early 70s. In 2007, there were 9,789 known pairs of eagles in the continental United States.

The steps of federal protection that brought the bald eagle back in the lower 48 states:
In 1940 - Congress passed the Bald Eagle Protection Act, prohibiting killing or selling of bald eagles.
In 1967 - under the Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966, bald eagles south of the 40th parallel were listed as endangered.

In 1972 - the Environmental Protection Agency banned the use of DDT (an organophosphate pesticide) in the United States.
In 1995 - the US Fish and Wildlife Service downlisted the species from endangered to threatened status in all lower 48 states.
In 2007 - the US Fish and Wildlife Service de-listed the species from the threatened species list in all lower 48 states.

Return of the Eagles To Oklahoma

During the last century, numbers of nesting eagles decreased in Oklahoma along with the general decline in eagles nationwide. An intensive eagle release effort has been the cornerstone for Oklahoma’s eagle recovery efforts.
Between 1985 and 1990, the Wildlife Diversity Program assisted the George M. Sutton Avian Research Center with the release of 90 eaglets in eastern Oklahoma, with a record mass release of 59 birds in 1990.
Biologists transported eggs from Florida bald eagle nests to the Sutton Center in Bartlesville. About nine weeks after hatching, the young eagles were placed in hacking towers and eventually released into the wild, with the hopes that they would return as adults and raise their young in the state.

Since those efforts, bald eagle populations in Oklahoma increase each year. While there were zero pairs of nesting eagles in 1990, Oklahoma had 49 nesting pairs in 2007.

How can I help the Bald Eagle?

If you know of anyone committing a violation, call Operation Game Thief at 1-800-522-8039, or contact the state game warden in your county. You should also call the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Law Enforcement Agent in your area: 918/581-7469 or 405/231-5251.