CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The future for West Virginia’s bald eagles looks as bright as the snow-white feathers on the birds’ heads.
Forty years ago, the only eagles seen in the Mountain State were migrants “just passing through.” Today, the state is home to an estimated 100 to 200 nesting pairs, a number that grows with each passing year.
“Since the early 1980s, when the first nesting pair showed up in the Eastern Panhandle, the recovery of the bald eagle in West Virginia has been consistent and sustained,” said Rich Bailey, ornithologist for the state Division of Natural Resources.
Though biologists still keep an eye on the state’s eagles, they no longer worry about their future. “Unless something changes, the number of eagles [residing in West Virginia] will only go up,” Bailey said. “Every watershed that has food will eventually fill up.”
For anyone who remembers the 1950s through the 1970s, the bald eagle’s recovery seems nothing short of remarkable. By the mid-1950s, only an estimated 512 nesting pairs existed across the lower 48 states.
The bald eagle had been protected against commercial killing and trapping since 1940, but the effects of the pesticide DDT furthered the species’ decline…