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Bald Eagles Return from Brink of Extinction

Travis Ketzak
By Travis Ketzak / July 10, 2017

In the 1970s, bald eagles were endangered. They were about to go extinct, but thanks to some pretty impressive conservation efforts, they have recovered.

In Virginia, near the Chesapeake Bay, professional climbers search tree tops in search of eagles. When they find baby bald eagles, they bag them and lower them to the ground where they are tagged and given medical examinations.

Wildlife biologist Bryan Watts told CBS News that the eagles he recently examined were in great shape. Bryan is the director of the College of William & Mary’s Center for Conservation Biology. He has been studying Virginia’s bald eagle population for 30 years, and he is astonished at the recovery they’ve made.

In 1970, there were only 20 breeding pairs left in Virginia. However, in 2016, biologists counted 1,060. The total number of bald eagles visiting the Bay every year is believed to be around 25-30,000.

That recovery can be attributed to the banning of the pesticide DDT. If DDT had never been banned, “the eagles would be gone from the Bay,” Bryan said.

“The most gratifying part of that is the knowledge that we did that,” Bryan said. “You know, not the small ‘we’ at the conservation community but the large ‘we’ of the American people.”

The symbol of our freedom was in danger, but it looks like they’re here to stay.