Project introduces nesting bald eagles to Vermont

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(Host) Vermont is the only state in the continental United States without nesting bald eagles. Even though it’s expected that birds from New Hampshire will take up residence in Vermont in the next several years, the state has launched its own effort to make sure the bald eagle returns.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Zind) No one knows how many bald eagles once populated in Vermont. The only known report of nesting eagles is from the 1940s.

Nationally, the population of the bird dropped dramatically after 1950 probably due to the use of pesticides like DDT. Brad Mann is with the Department of Fish and Wildlife

(Mann) “Back when DDT was used very heavily, it got to almost a population where they didn’t think they would be able to bring them back.”

(Zind) But across the nation, bald eagles have made a comeback and beginning this spring half a dozen young birds will be brought to Vermont in hopes that they’ll reestablish themselves here. The eagles will be placed in boxes mounted on poles on state land in the Dead Creek area of Addison. Volunteers will feed and watch over the birds until they can fly and feed themselves. Because it takes at least four years for bald eagles to reach sexual maturity, we won’t know for some time whether or not the eagles will breed in Vermont – but similar programs have been successful in other states.

Currently there are two pairs of bald eagles nesting on the New Hampshire side of the Connecticut River. It’s expected that even without human help, birds like these will nest in Vermont in the next few years.

Margaret Fowle is with the National Wildlife Federation, which is managing the restoration program for the state. Fowle says some people have expressed concern that the $100,000 being spent on the restoration program might be better used to protect other endangered species in Vermont. She says because they capture the public’s imagination, bald eagles raise awareness about conservation and that helps all species.

(Fowle) “Even though the biological necessity isn’t as dire as it could be, the opportunity to teach people about endangered species and about wildlife in Lake Champlain and the health of the ecosystem of Lake Champlain and all the parts that come with having eagles around was the best part of this project.”

(Zind) Fowle says while people won’t be able to get too close to the birds, they will be able to view them from a distance. She says a video camera mounted on one of the boxes will give people a chance to watch the birds on the Internet.

The birds come from eagles bred in captivity. The program will continue to introduce young birds to the Dead Creek area for three years. There will be an information meeting on the bald eagle restoration project Thursday night at 7 o’clock at the Central School in Addison.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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