Thanks to strict conservation efforts, Arizona’s threatened bald eagle population grew by near-record numbers during the 2009 breeding season. Forty-seven hatchlings fledged their nests by early August, more than one for each of the estimated 43 breeding pairs in the state.
Arizona Fish and Game officials attribute the eagles’ success to tightly controlled efforts to ban human activity in nesting areas, including popular recreation spots like Lake Pleasant, Roosevelt Lake, and the lower Verde River. Human activity can often trigger adult eagles to abandon their eggs, leaving them uncovered, or cause young birds to leave their nests prematurely.
The department's efforts seem to be working. There were 77 eggs produced this year, six more than last year, and a record 67 of them hatched successfully. While the final number of fledged eagles for 2009 is down slightly from 2008, which had 53, the success rate for each breeding pair went up. Officials estimate there were 56 breeding pairs in 2008 compared to this year’s 43. The recent results are considered a drastic improvement over the 2005 observations of only 37 fledged nestlings. In the past 30 years, population numbers have increased approximately 400 percent.
Bald eagles were lifted from the national endangered species list in 2007, but a court order forced the Arizona population to remain listed as “threatened” until their numbers improved. For the past few years, land and wildlife management agencies have closed their breeding grounds as early as December to increase breeding success. The US Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to give another ruling about the status of Arizona bald eagles this October.
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