Monday, August 3, 2009

Eagles Populations Are Growing in Ohio

Articles in the Ohio papers are reporting that bald eagles are continuing their resurgence with 215 nests reported last year. That is the largest number of nests counted since the time that they were put on the endangered species list. There were times I thought this would never happen.

When I was in jr. high school in the late 1960's my family would travel to the Everglades Nat. Park during Xmas break. On one of those trips I saw a bald eagle perched on a dead tree and felt very lucky because it was one of only fifty in the state of Florida. That was the largest breeding population in the US outside of Alaska. At the same time, it was a sad event as the few remaining eagles were still falling prey to hunters and the effects of DDT. I thought I might be seeing the bald eagle for the last time in the wild.

By the early eighties I was hearing reports of a resurgence in the bald eagle population but I didn't really believe them until one day while I was hang gliding in the mountains of Cleveland National Forest east of San Diego and a bald eagle flew right under me. I'd never even seen a good photo of one in flight and hadn't realized that they had white tails. I tried to follow it for a way, but the eagle had a much better glide ratio than my hang glider.

Later I ran into a National Forest Ranger and asked how the bald eagles were doing. He initially said there were none in the area, but after mentioning my experience, he confided that they were being kept a secret for fear they might get shot. You see, the area east of the big SoCal cities is still cowboy country where ranchers ride horses around their spreads with a Winchester by their side and many believe that raptors (the birds not the dinosaurs) are a threat to the livestock and, therefore need to be shot.

So the bald eagles still weren't out of the woods yet. I mean they were actually in the forest and weren't planning to leave, but there were still plenty of opportunities for them to join the list with the auk and dodo.

Now the news is all good. Bald eagle populations are increasing not just on the coasts, but also around my current digs, smack dab in the middle of Ohio. Finally I can relax and stop worrying about the extinction of our magnificent national bird, at least until its food supply dies off.

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