In 1782, the bald eagle was adopted as the national symbol of the United States. As many as 100,000 nesting eagles were said to have lived in the U.S. By 1963, only 417 nesting pairs were said to have been present in the continental U.S. The fact that we were destroying our own national symbol painted a negative picture of Americans. So for the last 30 years, the government has been working to help undo the damage that had been done to this species, and by June 29th of this year, they will have proved successful.

The reasons behind the birds’ near extinction came from three factors: habitat destruction, illegal shooting, and contamination of its food source. The population severely declined between 1870 and 1970 due to these factors. The main reason was due to a pesticide being used called DDT which made bald eagle eggshells so weak that they couldn’t produce viable offspring. In 1972, the use of DDT was banned, and the eagle was placed under the protection of the Endangered Species Act. This act, along with the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, prohibited anyone without a permit from pursuing, shooting, shooting at, poisoning, wounding, killing, capturing, trapping, collecting, molesting, or disturbing the birds.

These measures worked, and by Independence Day 1999, president Clinton announced that the bald eagle had been removed from the endangered species list after the number breeding pairs climbed to 5,800, though they were still considered threatened. Today, there are 541 animals in the U.S. on the list and protected by the Endangered Species Act. Twenty animals have been delisted and 10 are considered recovered. Today, there are 9,789 breeding pairs in the states.

After being taken off the threatened list, the birds will still be protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. Because of this, their habitat will no longer be off-limits. They live along small rivers which are often prone to development. Some are worried that after being taken off the list, the populations will once again decline. It will only be up to society to make sure this doesn’t happen again. After all, in these times, we need a strong symbol to represent us.

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