The bald eagle soared off the endangered species list in 2007, rebounding from 417 breeding pairs in the continental United States in 1967 to over 10,000 today. The recovery and delisting of the nation's symbol marks a major achievement in conservation. Idaho's breeding bald eagle population has experienced a 20-fold increase, growing from about a dozen known nesting territories in 1979 to more than 250 today.
Uniquely North American, the bald eagle has a long and symbolic history in the United States. It first appeared on an American coin in 1776, and became the national emblem in 1782 when around 100,000 nesting pairs lived throughout the United States, ranging from Alaska to northern Mexico. But by 1963, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimated that only 417 nesting pairs remained in the lower 48 states.
Beginning in 1940, Congress attempted to protect the bald eagle by passing the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, which made it a crime to take or sell the eagles. But it was the chemical DDT, developed after World War II as the first of the modern synthetic insecticides, which really took a toll on the bald eagle and other raptor species. DDT accumulated in the birds and caused them to lay eggs with thin shells. Concerns about the bald eagle resulted in its protection in 1967 under the predecessor to the current Endangered Species Act (ESA). As a result, the bald eagle was one of the first species protected by the ESA when it was enacted in 1973.
Today, large concentrations of wintering bald eagles in Idaho can be found along Lake Coeur d'Alene, Lake Pend Oreille, and sections of the Snake, Salmon and Boise rivers.
To learn more about bald eagles in Idaho and other 75th Celebration stories, go to http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/75th.