Most experts expected the bald eagle to become extinct during the 20th century.
This American symbol has since reversed its decline and begun to recover.
The bald eagle was found to be endangered in 1940 and a law was passed, the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, to protect it from hunting.
DDT offered another threat to the survival of the bald eagle, and continued to feed the decline in numbers after the birds were no longer hunted. When the number reached just 417 breeding pairs in 1963, action was called for and in 1973 the species was put on the newly created Endangered Species List.
The bald eagle is making a strong comeback in the state of New Jersey. Zoologists from the Endangered and Nongame Species Programs (ENSP) locate and monitor eagle nests and territories to determine the species health and population.
Bald eagle numbers in New Jersey are increasing due to the efforts of volunteers who monitor bald eagle nests and report critical data concerning incubation, hatching and fledging dates to DEP wildlife biologists. Along with monitoring the nests, volunteers report new eagle sightings that often lead to the discovery of additional nests.
Despite its continued endangered status, the bald eagle is one of New Jersey's great success stories in endangered species protection and management.
The rising trend in eagle numbers began in the early 1980s. Eagle numbers have not only been increasing in New Jersey, but throughout the Northeast and lower 48 states. Fewer than 10 bald eagles were observed in the state's initial annual survey in 1978 as extensive pesticide use in the mid-1900's decimated the eagle population.
Beginning in 1982, the Department's Division of Fish and Wildlife engaged in a comprehensive strategy to address the situation by acquiring 60 bald eagles from Canada to form the nucleus of a new breeding population.
There are approximately 40 volunteers who assist DEP wildlife biologists by monitoring bald eagle nests from the beginning of the nesting season in December until the young birds take their first flight in late summer. Volunteers provide further protection to the bald eagle by alerting the Department when they witness snowmobiles, ATV's or people walking too close to a bald eagle nesting location. Often volunteers act as educators, informing the public that walking too close to a nesting eagle pair can cause the birds to abandon their nest.
A new record high of 69 eagle pairs was monitored during the 2008 nesting season. 63 of those were active (with eggs) and one was housekeeping. Five other pairs were seen in and around previous nest territories, but it was unknown if and where they nested.
New Jersey’s Delaware Bay region remained the state’s eagle stronghold, with 46 percent of all nests located in Cumberland and Salem counties. Seven new nests were found this season, three in the south, two in central and two in northern NJ. Fifty nests were successful in producing 85 young, for a productivity rate of 1.35 young per active nest.
In January’s Midwinter Eagle Survey, ENSP staff, regional coordinators and
volunteers reported a total of 264 bald eagles, a new record high count. Forty-three eagles were recorded in northern NJ and 221 in the south.