Hunting News

New census finds 14% increase in bald eagle numbers

New census finds 14% increase in bald eagle numbers

By Ohio Department of Natural Resource

The recent bald eagle census from the Division of Wildlife estimates 806 nests in the Buckeye State, an estimated increase of 14% from the 707 bald eagle nests documented from the Division’s 2020 citizen science survey.

Bald eagle nesting success was at an estimated rate of 82% in the spring of 2021, and the number of young per nest was 1.6, well above the number of 1 per nest needed to sustain the population. These productivity rates are similar to previous years. The 2022 estimate will be released following the nesting season.

The Division’s bald eagle nesting survey consisted of flying five blocks, each roughly 10 square miles, to search for eagle nests in woodlots and along rivers. Two of the blocks, one near Sandusky on Lake Erie, and the other over Mosquito Creek Wildlife Area in northeast Ohio, are flown every year. The other three blocks are rotated every year. The 2021 blocks were located around Killbuck Wildlife Area, Grand Lake St. Marys, and the Maumee River in Defiance and Henry counties.

“Bald eagle management by the Division of Wildlife includes habitat conservation with an emphasis on wetlands and wooded river corridors, working with rehabilitators who help injured birds recover, and helping to enforce protective state and federal laws,” said Kendra Wecker, Division chief. “We are incredibly proud that Ohio’s bald eagle population continues to improve and grow.”

Bald eagles thrive in spaces with clean water and fish, their preferred food. Lake Erie and other large water bodies host the highest number of eagles because of easy access to food resources. All Ohioans can report a bald eagle nest at wildohio.gov or through the HuntFishOH mobile app.

The bald eagle was once an endangered species, with only four nesting pairs in Ohio in 1979. Partnerships between the Division of Wildlife, Ohio zoos, wildlife rehabilitation facilities, concerned landowners, and conservationists have seen bald eagle population increase. After much hard work and continued conservation, the bald eagle was removed from the federal list of threatened and endangered species in 2007, and from Ohio’s list in 2012.

Bald eagles are protected under both state law and the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, making it illegal to disturb bald eagles. Disturbing bald eagles at the nest site could lead the pair to abandon the eggs.

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