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June 16, 2008

SC Bald Eagle population continues to increase

The S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has been monitoring Bald Eagle populations in the state for 32 years and has documented 2,887 nesting attempts and 3,595 fledglings. Some 228 nesting sites were occupied within our borders. This is an astonishing increase over the 13 sites documented in 1977. The latest count found that South Carolina eagles were averaging 1.25 chicks per nesting attempt.

DNR also continues to participate in the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) contiguous 48 states count. This is conducted through aerial surveys of eagle nesting areas and standardized boat surveys of the major waterways of our state. Totals from the 2007 Midwinter Bald Eagle Survey found 497 adults, 67 immature birds, and two golden eagles. The vast majority of adult birds were found to be breeding pairs.

The Bald Eagle was declared the National Emblem by the US Second Continental Congress on June 20, 1782 due to its uniqueness to North America. The Bald Eagle populations reached dangerously low levels in the 1960’s due to habitat alteration, the toxic effects and widespread use of persistent pesticides and shooting mortality.  The Bald Eagle Protection Act of 1940 was the first step to help restore this declining population.  However, populations continued to decline and ultimately the Bald Eagle landed on the list of endangered and threatened species of the 1973 Endangered Species Act. Thirty-five years of protection have helped the failing population bounce back from as low as 400 nesting pairs to almost 10,000 in the lower 48-states today. This amazing rebound in the population prompted the delisting of the Bald Eagle this past June.

DNR will continue to work with the USACE and U.S. Fish and Wildlife (USFWS) to provide vital monitoring information to ensure the delisting of the Bald Eagle will not have a harmful affect on the population.  This provides accurate up-to-date information on nest locations and high use foraging areas. Habitat protection projects will additionally continue throughout the state.  

There are many ways that private citizens can help protect the Bald Eagle now that they have been removed from the endangered and threatened species list as well.  

The American Eagle Foundation has established a competitive grant program for state agencies, private conservation groups, and federal agencies, where permissible, to further protect Bald Eagles post-delisting.   This grant program is administered by the American Eagle Foundation under the direction of a 12-member Bald Eagle Grant Advisory Team (BEGAT). BEGAT is made up of nationwide experts from the five USFWS eagle regions, state wildlife agencies, universities, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, United States Geological Survey, the Bureau of Reclamation, and American Indian tribal representation. Together the team will finalize grant guidelines. Primary funding for the grant program will come from donations and sales of Bald Eagle Commemorative Coins.

The Bald Eagle Commemorative Coin, authorized under the 2004 Bald Eagle Commemorative Coin Act, authorized the U.S. Mint to mint three collectible Bald Eagle Coins during 2008. This celebrates the 35th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, while providing long-term funding for the protection of Bald Eagles post-delisting. The approximate costs of the available coins are $310-$320 for a $5.00 gold coin, $38-$44 for a silver dollar, and $9-$45 for a half dollar.

DNR protects and manages South Carolina's natural resources by making wise and balanced decisions for the benefit of the state's natural resources and its people.

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