Central Coast Bald Eagles Now Fully Restored

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Source: Ventana Wildlife Society

In this month’s issue of the Journal of Raptor Research, a peer-reviewed paper documents how local biologists from Ventana Wildlife Society (VWS) restored bald eagles to central California and how the birds have done over the last 25 years.  For lead author and VWS Executive Director Kelly Sorenson, “Publishing this paper was a bucket list thing for me as I worked as a field biologist in the early 1990’s when we were releasing eagles to the wild.  We only got around to writing this up after making serious headway on the recovery of the California Condor”

Between 1986 and 1994, 66 bald eagles were released in Big Sur, California, at the same site of the present-day Condor Sanctuary owned and managed by VWS.  Young eagles still in the nest were collected from Alaska, British Columbia and northern California and were brought to Big Sur California for release.  “A lot of people don’t know that for 60 years bald eagles were absent from central California during the summer breeding season.  The species almost went extinct but now we have a robust and growing population of bald eagles”, Sorenson said.  [See graphic for locations of nesting pairs]  This year, we believe there are at least 30 breeding pairs from Marin to Santa Barbara County. 

For Sorenson, he sees a parallel between bald eagle and California Condor recovery in central California.  First, many people doubted if it was possible to recover these two species to the wild.  Second, for both species, one major obstacle was the primary cause of their decline and when effectively dealt with, the populations began to rise.  Bald eagles were nearly wiped out by the use of the pesticide DDT, which causes eggshell thinning in birds.  Their recovery is a result of the banning of DDT in 1972 and in central California it is because of the efforts of VWS’ reintroduction program.  California Condors are now showing positive signs of recovery as well due to ongoing efforts to minimize the threat of lead poisoning from ingested spent ammunition – the primary obstacle to condor recovery.  For more information about the VWS nonlead ammunition program, go to http://www.ventanaws.org/ammunition/

“For both the California Condor and the Bald Eagle, their recovery is only made possible due to the passage of the Endangered Species Act and a whole lot of people who care enough to save them”, said Sorenson.  “Both species give us hope for wildlife conservation and our ability to take care of the planet and the ecosystem.” 


Ventana Wildlife Society (Founded in 1977): In California alone there are 130 species of animals in the wild threatened or endangered with extinction. Ventana Wildlife Society is committed to conserving native wildlife and their habitats. Ventana Wildlife Society released 66 Bald Eagles to central California in the 1980's and 90's and began reintroducing California Condors in 1997. Rather than dwelling on past mistakes that brought many of our wild animals to the brink, we focus on the present. We recover individual species and track the populations of many others so that conservation can be timely as well as effective. Focusing on youth education, we better ensure that future generations have the willingness and capacity to help wildlife. Our vision is to have a society who cares for and supports wildlife across the planet, particularly in California.

Online at www.ventanaws.org  

Photo Credit:  Joe Burnett / Ventana Wildlife Society

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