News Coverage of Bald Eagles Misses Successes and Shames Hunters

By Larry Keane

Bald Eagle iStock-1238572852
Bald eagles are making a big comeback, but local news stories are just shaming hunters.
IMG: iStock-1238572852

U.S.A. -(AmmoLand.com)- The Department of the Interior announced that America’s bald eagles have come soaring back. Outdoorsmen and women have been celebrating this for decades, but local news reporting is missing the picture.0

“‘A tough bird.’ Rescued eagle in Raleigh fights to stay alive after lead poisoning,” reads one headline. “Bald eagles in N.C. are fighting for survival — from lead poisoning,” says another. “Getting the lead out: Wildlife rescuers desperate to save bald eagles from being poisoned,” reads one more.

It is a deceptive narrative with a goal to shame America’s hunters and push counterintuitive bans on traditional lead-based ammunition.

Flying High

The good news is remarkable. America’s bald eagles have recovered from near extinction. In 1963, there were only 417 nesting pairs. Those dire days are long gone. The Department of the Interior released a 2020 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) report celebrating that there are 71,400 nesting pairs in the lower 48 states and more than 316,000 individual birds. The bald eagle population has quadrupled since 2009.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland praised the bald eagles’ return. “Today’s announcement is truly a historic conservation success story,” she said. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Principal Deputy Director Martha Williams added her praise. “The recovery of the bald eagle is one of the most well-known conservation success stories of all time.”

Bald eagles are thriving.

Narratives

It is unfortunate when an eagle is brought to a rescue facility. Some are injured after ingesting lead. Suspicions arise that it is from carrion tainted with lead fragments from hunters’ bullets or anglers’ fishing weights. Reports never account for eagles at landfills or other sources of contamination.

The Raleigh News and Observer reported on a bald eagle brought to the American Wildlife Refuge (AWR) in Raleigh, N.C., after ingesting lead. Suspicions tied injuries to hunting, but it is never proven. In the report, the American Eagle Foundation named lead poisoning as a “leading concern” for birds of prey and that “millions” are affected each year. The News and Observer also report the AWR “treated four other bald eagles in all of the past year.”

AWR Director of Animal Care Steve Stone blamed hunters. “This is not a first-time thing. This has pretty much become the routine, and will be the routine until that law comes to be.”

That’s belied by the paper’s previous reporting, though. The News and Observer once reported on North Carolina’s bald eagle’s return. “The eagles have made a remarkable recovery, both in North Carolina and nationwide,” the paper reported. “The birds were removed from the list of threatened and endangered species in 2007 because their numbers had increased so much.”

Similar narratives appear elsewhere. The Bangor Daily News called for a lead ammunition ban. “The science is clear: We are killing our bald eagles with our use of lead ammunition in hunting, forcing them to die slowly and inhumanely.”

They didn’t bother with the research or science. In 1962, there were 27 nesting pairs of bald eagles in Maine. Today there are “a robust 734 nesting pairs.”

It’s the same in Minnesota, North Dakota, and all across America. Bald eagles are thriving.

Motives

Antihunting and gun control groups push traditional ammunition bans for ulterior motives. Sometimes it is to limit hunting. Some know nontraditional ammunition is more expensive and requiring it would price some gun owners out of the market. What is lost is that bald eagle recovery is directly tied to firearm and ammunition manufacturers paying excise taxes and hunters supporting them.

The firearm and ammunition industry has contributed more than $13.6 billion in Pittman-Robertson excise taxes since 1937. These funds, combined with hunting and fishing license revenues, are apportioned to states for conservation projects and wildlife management, including bald eagle recovery.

States pushing traditional ammunition bans, like Oregon, Washington, California, and others, harm conservation by reducing the population of hunters and limiting conservation funding.

News reports often lookout to find someone to blame. Instead, they’d see the truth about eagle recovery if they’d bother to look up.


About The National Shooting Sports Foundation

NSSF is the trade association for the firearm industry. Its mission is to promote, protect and preserve hunting and shooting sports. Formed in 1961, NSSF has a membership of thousands of manufacturers, distributors, firearm retailers, shooting ranges, sportsmen’s organizations, and publishers nationwide. For more information, visit nssf.org

National Shooting Sports Foundation

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Dr. Strangelove
Dr. Strangelove
10 days ago

I live in Iowa, and see them all up and down the Mississippi, as well as many other places. Their population has exploded in the last 10 years. last week I saw one chasing down a goose. It was gaining rapidly, but they disappeared before I could see the outcome.

Chev
Chev
11 days ago

What the econazi’s forget to mention is the multitude of raptors that have been killed by wind turbines. Their blaming hunters for the killing of the California Condor is Bovine droppings as many have also been killed by the wind turbines. I call them out as liars.

J.C.
J.C.
11 days ago

What was the cause of the decline in the first place? Pesticide’s like DDT and others where making the shells to fragile to last through the gestation period. Meaning the broke before the baby Eagle was formed and hatched. lead poisonings is a very rare occurrence. Not saying lead poisonings does not happen but it is probably rare. You know if you hunt any water fowl you can not use lead shot now, so it is not in the water fowl marsh areas or rivers, ponds or lakes. you don’t fish with a shotgun or rifle so i find fishing… Read more »

RoyD
RoyD
11 days ago
Reply to  J.C.

Your mention of DDT was what I thought was determined to be the primary culprit of the decline back in the day.

musicman44mag
musicman44mag
11 days ago

I see the difference. When I was a kid, way back when in the good old days, I never saw an eagle in real life living in the city in kommiefornia. The first eagle I ever saw was at Yellowstone feeding it’s baby. Now, I am starting to see them and spotting their nests more and more. I think it’s cool that they are coming back. I wish they were around to kill the spotted owl so Oregone’s industry would not have been decimated like it was by the tree huggers and sierra clubbers.

Arny
Arny
11 days ago

One should question why these predators were about extinct. How many stuffed birds you seen in your lifetime ? Anyone notice the decline in other feathery creatures ? And wait till they start going after children & livestock. Watch the deer population. How many newborns will be food ? They are a pretty bird. But I don’t buy the reason for being almost extinct. Turkeys were making a good comeback in my area. Now I rarely see one. I did see a young eagle have one for lunch one day. You decide.
https://youtu.be/3Pj8VLkZkh8
https://youtu.be/m0UL4OviZIk

Last edited 11 days ago by Arny
Boz
Boz
11 days ago

More Bald Eagles are killed and injured by power generating windmills than any other cause.

gregs
gregs
11 days ago

how is the excise tax apportioned, does it go to all 50 states equally?
love how they (the anti’s) use science to demean others, but never actually use science to prove anything. scientifically, i can prove that there are only two genders. they should have said they have reached a consensus.

Ryben Flynn
Ryben Flynn
11 days ago
Reply to  gregs

From the Mississippi Department of Wildlife Fisheries and Parks website. (First place I found that explains the apportionment) “This tax is handled by the Department of the Treasury, which turns the funds over to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for apportionments to states. How are Pittman-Robertson Funds distributed to states? USFWS deposits P-R revenue into a special account called the Wildlife Restoration Trust Fund. These funds are made available to states the year following their collection. Funds are then distributed through the following process: 1) $8 million is dedicated to Enhanced Hunter Education programs, including the construction or… Read more »

Last edited 11 days ago by Ryben Flynn