Bald eagles are one of the great American conservation success stories. Brought back from the brink of extinction, the iconic bird is once again inhabiting more and more of its historic range. But its comeback may be putting other wildlife that it feasts on at risk.
With more eagles around and fewer fish, one of their primary food sources, the birds are looking to other birds and animals to satisfy their hunger. Last year, wildlife officials expressed concerns that the birds might wipe out the U.S. population of great cormorants.
Now, the bird's tendancy to eat the easiest prey may stymie its reintroduction to California's Channel Islands.
Conservationists believe there are three key sources of prey potentially attractive to bald eagles on the Channel Islands: seal or seal lion carrion, seabirds, and the island fox. The first option, however, is not likely because, much of the seal and sea lion carrion is contaminated with pollutants. This leaves local seabirds—which are threatened due to pollution and diminished coastal fish populations—and the already-endangered island fox.
Removing the invasive ruminants from the island was an intensive effort that took the National Park Service years to accomplish. The aliens took with them, it seems, a source of carrion that might have made immediate reintroduction of bald eagles possible.
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