Md.'s bald eagle population has soared sixfold since 1977

June 10, 1999|By Joel McCord | Joel McCord,SUN STAFF

Maryland's bald eagle population has soared to its highest point in two decades, the state Department of Natural Resources said this week.

Scientists who conducted aerial surveys this spring spotted 260 nesting pairs of the national bird, mostly along the shores of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. That's a 12 percent increase since August and more than six times the number scientists found in 1977, the first year the department conducted its survey.

In addition, an estimated 368 young eagles were being cared for in those nests, which is another record, state officials said.

"The continued recovery of this once-endangered species would not be possible without land preservation, critical areas protection and Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts," John R. Griffin, state secretary of natural resources, said in a statement.

Scientists estimate there were 600 nesting pairs of bald eagles in Maryland in the 1930s, based on a National Audubon Society survey. The number plummeted to 41 pairs in 1977, when the DNR began keeping records, mainly because of DDT and other pesticides.

"That wasn't the only cause, but it was the major cause," Glenn Therres, the DNR's eagle biologist, said yesterday.

The eagles also suffered from the loss of much of their habitat and their prey as the human population grew.

They began their comeback after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency banned the use of DDT in 1972 and the DNR moved to protect the eagle, Therres said.

State scientists found the eagles in 19 Maryland counties, including the first nest in Frederick County since the birds were declared endangered in 1967. Dorchester County had the most nesting pairs, with 58, followed by Charles County with 37.

Pub Date: 6/10/99

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