In 1982, it was uncommon to see a bald eagle soaring above the pine and the lakes of east-central Minnesota.
When Pam Perry, DNR non-game wildlife specialist, started working in the Brainerd office in 1982, she tracked about 25 eagle nests. Most of those eagles were located in northern Crow Wing and southern Cass Counties and near the Chippewa National Forest. The population in east-central Minnesota has grown now to 179 eagle territories, some with more than one nest.
"What's really intriguing is that eagles are nesting in the agricultural counties of east-central Minnesota," Perry said. "We have eagles in every county in our region."
Eagles tend to nest in areas that have lakes and trees. There are 15 counties in Perry's region. "The eagles are finding areas where there are only a few lakes and trees in a primarily agricultural county and establishing their territory," Perry said.
The eagle population is doing so well that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering removing them from the endangered species list this summer. The DNR's Non-game Wildlife program will conduct a survey this spring to determine the number of bald eagle nesting pairs in the state. The DNR is estimating that there will be over 700 nesting pairs in the state and possibly even 800.
Removing the bald eagle from the endangered species list means the bald eagle population is doing very well. The bald eagle and its nests will still be protected by law.
"It is wonderful that we could actually do something for our national symbol," Perry said. "It is a great success.
"It also means that our environment is a little cleaner and that we are removing DDT from the environment," she said.
Eagles begin returning to east-central Minnesota in early February. They work on their nest and begin courtship. By early to mid-March, the eagles are laying eggs. The eggs will hatch sometime in early to mid April.
People who know where an eagle nest is located are encouraged to call the DNR non-game wildlife office at (218) 828-2228. Information from the public will help with the spring survey. Projects that helped the eagles to increase in population are conducted by DNR's non-game wildlife program. You can donate to the Non-game Wildlife Checkoff on your state tax form. Donations fund almost 90 percent of the Non-game Wildlife Program.
Help the DNR continue to save non-game wildlife that are in jeopardy because of habitat loss, unlawful killing or other environmental threats. Look for the loon on your state tax form and write in your contribution. It's easy, it's fast, and it's tax deductible!
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