Bald eagle population continues to soar and spread in Wisconsin


Minnesota is still tops in the nation for number of bald eagles, but Wisconsin's neighboring population of the birds of prey is at an all-time high -- and rising.

The Wisconsin DNR said this week that that eagles are occupying nests in nearly every county of the state, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. This year's eagle population — measured by air in April by the number of known nesting pairs — is expected to top the record of 1,337 pairs of birds last year, according to the JS and DNR.

In 1973, the DNR was able to find just 108 breeding pairs, while DDT and other toxic waste were weakening eggshells and decimated eagle reproduction.

Another reason the population is thriving in Wisconsin is the weather, Minnesota Public Radio reports. Mild winters and open water have kept many eagles from migrating to another state. In addition, young eagles have begun moving to new territories in the southern part of the state.

The bald eagle was removed from Wisconsin's endangered species list in 1997, according to the Journal Sentinel, and taken off the federal list in 2007. Wisconsin ranks behind only Minnesota and Florida in the number of bald eagles, but bald eagles are more widespread in Wisconsin than they are in neighboring Minnesota,a spokesperson for the Wisconsin DNR tells the paper.

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An eagle project manager with the National Park Service told the Star Tribune officials counted 36 nests along the Mississippi River between Elk River and Hastings. That's up from 28 last year and 11 when aerial surveys began in 2006. The continued growth indicates the river is producing plenty of food for the majestic birds.