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The Bald Eagle in Oklahoma

The Eagle's Decline

GIF - Flying Eagle

In 1782, the year it was formally adopted as our national emblem, the bald eagle population was flourishing, possibly with as many as 20,000 nesting pairs in what is now the United States.

In the more than 200 years since the bald eagle became our living symbol of strength and freedom, its numbers have declined alarmingly. Settlement of our nation led to human encroachment and habitat destruction, killing of birds for trophies and open persecution because of people's prejudices toward predators. By the late 1800s, the bald eagle's range had shrunk until it was generally restricted to its current breeding range in Alaska, Canada, the Great Lakes states, Florida and the Pacific Northwest. Today, only about 2,400 nesting pairs live in the lower 48 states. In addition, the widespread use of DDT, which was banned by 1972, resulted in thin-shelled eggs that seldom hatched, further reducing eagle populations.

The bald eagle was first listed as an endangered species in 1967. In 1978 it was declared an endangered species in 43 states, including Oklahoma. Since that time, it has been listed as threatened in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Washington and Oregon. It is not listed in Alaska, where approximately 30,000 birds still breed.

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