Pennsylvania sees rebound in eagle numbers

For many years, spotting a bald eagle soaring in the skies of Pennsylvania was a rare sight indeed.

These days, the regal birds of prey are found in greater numbers than ever in the wild and in urban areas as well.

“Eagles are a tremendous success story,” Dan Brauning, wildlife diversity chief for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, said.

It’s safe to say that favorable environmental conditions in recent decades have helped boost eagle numbers.

Landmark legislation such as the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act, along with banning of hazardous pesticides such as DDT have certainly helped eagle populations, according to Brauning.

The bald eagle was removed from the state’s list of endangered and threatened species in 2014.

No precise numbers for eagles in Lycoming County or elsewhere in the state are available, he noted.

But private groups and the Game Commission have taken great efforts to track eagles.

A number of eagle nests can be found in Lycoming County alone, where bird watchers and others gather to catch glimpses of the birds.

“One of the active sites we (Game Commission) monitor is along I-180. Right off Warrensville Road is another one,” Brauning said.

A popular nesting site where many bird watchers gather can be found in Little Pine State Park next to the lake.

Eagles, Brauning noted, have taken well to both rural and more populated areas.

“The point is, eagles have really adapted to people,” he said. “They are not bothered by routine traffic. They have learned what is threatening to them.”

Eagles don’t begin nesting until about age five and live to be 20 to 30 years old.

Because they rely heavily on fish for food, they can often be found around streams or other bodies of water.

In winter months, eagles are very versatile in their food needs and often rely on road kills.

Can the eagle population be expected to grow?

Brauning said there certainly seems to be space for the birds to flourish.

Lycoming County, while showing an increasing eagle population, is far from the most populous area for the birds.

Crawford County in the northwestern part of the state has one of the state’s higher eagle populations along with the lower sections of the Susquehanna River in York and Lancaster counties, Brauning said.

More than 300 active nests were documented by the state Commission’s bald eagle monitoring program during the 2018 nesting season.

Game Commission officials have noted that vigilance and public education are needed to help maintain the success of eagle nests, especially in urban areas.

Meanwhile, it remains unclear when the nesting population will reach saturation in the state, according to experts.

More than ever, people are embracing the sight of an eagle throughout the state.

“We brought back our nation’s symbol to the point where public can enjoy it,” Brauning said.


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