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2016 Status of the Bald Eagle
By Terrence N. Ingram
The fact is that the bald eagle population in the Midwest has slipped back to a level that is lower than it was in the 1960’s when people started to become alarmed at the low numbers of bald eagles seen along the Mississippi River. At that time it was claimed that the cause was DDT and it was not until after DDT was banned that there was a full blown come back of the bald eagle population. However, if DDT was the only cause of the bald eagle’s decline there never should have been such a rapid increase in the bald eagle population after DDT was banned, because it should have taken a while for DDT to work itself out of the environment.

I believe that the cause of the bald eagle decline was a combination of DDT and F&W Service actions. In the 1950’s the bald eagle had a bounty on its head and feet both in Alaska and Texas, and maybe in other states, I don’t know. Once the public became alarmed about the decline of the bald eagle, these bounties were quietly lifted. We have been told that Alaska paid for 115,000 eagles being killed costing over $100,000. I believe that is why our Midwinter Bald Eagle Counts were able to document that the bald eagle population was improving before DDT was banned in 1972.

We know that some hunters would fly in helicopters and shoot hundreds of eagles in a single day, many of them, bald eagles. After the alarm was raised about the bald eagle’s decline, this practice was finally banned. I would sure like to see someone find the records in both Texas and Alaska of how many bounties were actually paid in the 1950’s for dead bald eagles. This is a piece of the puzzle that should be known. A yearly drain on the bald eagle population such as this, would gradually have an effect on the total bald eagle population.

I believe now that the present decline in the bald eagle population is due to some chemical, such as glyphosate, working its way through the food chain. The bald eagle population peaked about the year 2000 and then started a gradual decline. Glyphosate, the main chemical in the widely used herbicide, Roundup, started to be used heavily in 1996 and has been used in increasing amounts each year since then. I know this is only circumstantial evidence.

I have been able to document that glyphosate is the cause of Colony Collapse Disorder, CCD, in honeybees and I believe it to be one of the main culprits in the loss of our pollinators. But Monsanto is so powerful that no one wants to blame them. Monsanto is the source of lots of research monies to the Universities, so no one wants to bite the hand that feeds them. But gradually we are getting more and more independent studies to prove that glyphosate does not disintegrate in the environment as claimed, but actually accumulates in the food chain, just like DDT did in the 1950’s.

I believe this is the reason the bald eagles wintering on the Mississippi River gradually lost their food source and to survive had to move inland to find other food. We have the records to show that many wintering bald eagle communities along the Mississippi gradually declined by first losing their immatures and then gradually losing the adults as the immatures were not surviving to replace those adults that died. It was not long before the whole community would be wiped out.

We know that the bald eagle never should have been delisted by the F&W Service in 2007. There were no facts to back up such an action and our organization was strongly opposed to the action at the time. Someone high up in the F&W Service said the bald eagle was going to be delisted and ordered all employees to make the “facts” fit the story.

They needed such action for several reasons:
  • They needed a success story for the general public to show the Endangered Species Act worked.
  • They needed to show the world that they knew what they were doing by their being able to bring the bald eagle back from the brink of extinction.
  • They needed to stop the bald eagle from holding back some activities, because of the destruction of eagle habitat, such as highway building, bridge and dam building and other private commercial developments.
  • They could save lots of money and headaches by no longer having to monitor the bald eagle population.
The truth of the matter is that they do not understand bald eagles any better than they understand honeybees or other pollinators. They do not understand that the bald eagle moves a lot more than a house wren, is a winter nomad, and may be moving to another area every day or so. By flying 80 miles an hour the bird has the potential to be counted by more than one counter even during our 1 day bald eagle count, and one bird has the potential to be counted three, four or five times during the F&W bald eagle count which covers a 10 day to 2 week period in January right during the peak of their southward migration. That is why they and the DNR’s in states such as Illinois, Iowa and Missouri all brag about how many bald eagles they have wintering within their borders. The actual number may actually be one half or even one third of the numbers which they release to the public.

For over 25 years we have had the F&W Service tell us that the bald eagles are producing more young than they did the previous year. If they had been producing these young, we should have the greatest number of young eagles each year than ever in recorded history. The facts are that the percentage of young surviving has been steadily going down each year since 2000. The F&W, or the DNR’s, do not have the man power to check every nest and the leaves on the trees do not allow many of the nests to be seen when the young fledge, to actually know how many young do fledge. Someone sitting behind a desk is giving us these false numbers with no known facts to back up his or her statements.

Once the bald eagle was delisted the population was supposed to be monitored every five years. The only monitoring that has been done has been done by someone, maybe the same person, sitting behind a desk. This is not monitoring! Our national symbol deserves better! We need facts, not speculation or estimations.

Why were F&W employees ordered not to attend our last two International Bald Eagle Day events in Rochester, MN and Kansas City, MO. Was F&W afraid of other researchers questioning their “facts”?

We need to learn what the facts truly are and ENF is doing its best to try to determine what they are!