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Bald eagles making a comeback in New York

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

America’s national bird is making its way back into the public eye in New York State, and an ambitious project is being given much of the credit.

In 1960, there was only one active eagle’s nest in the state. Experts said random killings and use of pesticides were key culprits in bringing the bald eagle to the brink of extinction.

Times have changed. There are currently there are nearly 300 pairs of eagles nests in the state. New York’s Bald Eagle Restoration Project is being lauded for spearheading this turnaround.

The initiative will take center stage at 7 p.m. tonight when a respected authority on the issue gives a presentation at Barker High Central High School. Mike Allen, a retired state Department of Conservation wildlife technician, will give a presentation titled “Restoring the Bald Eagle: A 40-Year Journey.” The program is sponsored by the group Save Ontario Shores.

“The purpose and goal of the project when it began in 1975 was try to reestablish a viable nesting population of bald eagles in New York,” Allen told WBFO. “They have been a prolific breeder throughout history. But once the country was first settled, population numbers began to decline primarily because people looked at them as being a predator.”

The restoration mission faced challenges in its initial phases.

“We took a lot of criticism early on,” Allen recalled. “People said this it’ll never work. It was established in 1976, we had political people saying ‘well this is just a publicity stunt for the bicentennial’ and they just didn’t take in consideration the people that were involved in the project because there were a lot of very, very dedicated individuals that were involved in this.”

Obstacles did not deter advocates  from continuing the attempt to bring back America’s national bird. Allen talked about the role New York had in helping the comeback of the bald eagle. The project imported young birds from other states, including Alaska. They transported the eagles to suitable habitats across New York. Food was provided to the eagles as they acclimated to their new environments. The birds were released when they were able to fly.

“By 1975, New York was embarking on it and it was really a pioneering project because nobody had ever taken it to this degree before,” Allen said. “We were hoping that we might be able to restore bald eagles numbers.”

Their hopes have been realized, Allen said.

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