HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania game officials said Wednesday efforts to increase the state’s bald eagle population have been so successful it may be time to upgrade their status from threatened to protected.
The most recent count indicates there are at least 266 nesting pairs of bald eagles in 56 Pennsylvania counties, up from 237 a year ago.
The agency plans to consider the change in status at a board meeting next month, but any vote would have to occur after that.
“This year marks just another high point in the spectacular and widespread recovery of bald eagles in Pennsylvania, and it’s clear that the definition of a threatened species no longer describes them accurately,” said biologist Doug Gross, who leads the endangered and nongame birds section.
Threatened species are those considered to be at risk of becoming endangered in the near future.
Pennsylvania began trying to rebuild bald eagle populations 30 years ago, when only three nesting pairs were known, all in Crawford County. As recently as 2005, the number of nests was about 100. Eaglets from Canada were introduced to Pennsylvania as part of the program.
“Pennsylvania has plenty of good bald-eagle habitat that’s not currently being used by eagles,” said commission executive director Carl G. Roe. “And as the years roll on, I’m sure eagles will give us plenty more to celebrate.”
Experts say people should stay at least 1,000 feet from any bald eagle nests and avoid doing anything that might disturb the animals.