Kingman, AZ -(Ammoland.com)- Governor Jan Brewer has proclaimed June 20 American Bald Eagle Day in Arizona, part of a national effort to recognize the United States’ symbol of freedom and power.
A total of 43 states have signed proclamations to celebrate the day. More than 225 years after the newly-formed United States of America adopted the bald eagle over the turkey as its national symbol, the bald eagle is once again thriving nationally.
The bald eagle population numbered an estimated 250,000 birds when Europeans first settled the continent. However, populations began to decline in the 1800s when the birds were shot for feathers and trophies; their habitat was reduced to build houses and farms; and, their food sources were used to support the booming European settlements. In the 1900s, the species was affected by the use of DDT, and populations declined further.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department in cooperation with the Southwestern Bald Eagle Management Committee provides oversight of the species in Arizona, where the population has grown 600 percent since the bird was listed as federally endangered in 1978.
Although the bald eagle was removed from the endangered species list nationally in 2007, the population in Arizona still requires management due to its isolated nature to expand the current size. Game and Fish and the Southwestern Bald Eagle Management Committee have developed a cooperative management plan to ensure the continued recovery of the bald eagle in Arizona.
- Seasonal Closures – More than 20 seasonal closures are enacted around the state to help protect bald eagles nesting near popular human recreation areas. The closures are designed to help ensure the bald eagles are not disrupted during their nesting attempts. The closure areas vary in size and times, but most start Dec. 1 and end June 30.
- The Arizona Bald Eagle Nestwatch Program – For the past 35 years, the Arizona Game and Fish Department contracts with around 20 individuals annually on behalf of the Southwestern Bald Eagle Management Committee to monitor nests near high recreational use areas. These “nestwatchers” are stationed within the breeding area to ensure that human activity does not affect the nesting pairs. The contractors also collect data on each pair’s behavior, educate the recreating public, and alert biologists and law enforcement when a situation needs attention. The nestwatchers have saved the lives of more than 60 eagle nestlings since the program began in 1978 that would have died without a helping hand.
- Banding and Visual Identification – Biologists place unique, numbered identification bands on nestlings and read the bands of nesting adult bald eagles to determine the health of the population. When entering the nests to band the nestlings, biologists can also determine what the bald eagles have been eating; collect unhatched eggs and eggshells to test for contaminants; and remove fishing line and other materials that may pose a threat to the bald eagles. Fishing line can entangle a bald eagle and cause starvation or loss of appendages if it is not removed.
- Occupancy and Reproductive Assessment/Nest Survey Flights – Members of the Southwestern Bald Eagle Management Committee use helicopters to check the status of existing bald eagle nesting areas and to search for new nesting pairs. This effort enables the land and wildlife managers to implement management tools, like monitoring or closures, to proactively protect the nesting attempt.
- Monofilament Recovery Program – Two bald eagles have died from being entangled in fishing line, and biologists have removed fishing line from more than 60 percent of bald eagle nests in Arizona. The Arizona Game and Fish Department implemented a Monofilament Recovery Program in 2002 to help remove fishing line from the shores of Arizona’s lakes and rivers. The program offers recycling bins in most major angling shops and at boat ramps with the assistance of local groups like the Boy Scouts and angling clubs.
- Winter Count – Arizona participates in a nationwide winter survey to determine the status of the bald eagle population. The count is conducted along common bald eagle wintering areas in Arizona. The results from Arizona’s count are combined with the other states to determine nationwide trends in population numbers.
Game and Fish’s bald eagle management efforts are supported by the Heritage Fund, an initiative passed by voters more than 20 years ago to provide for wildlife education and conservation through Arizona lottery ticket sales.
About the Arizona Game and Fish Department
The Arizona Game and Fish Department mission is to conserve Arizona’s diverse wildlife resources and manage for safe, compatible outdoor recreation opportunities for current and future generations.