The bald eagle has returned to Lorain County in a big way.
Grant Thompson, chief naturalist for the Lorain County Metro Parks, gave a talk on the subject May 2 at the Wellington Reservation on Jones Road, just a stone’s throw from where bald eagles have taken up residence. That nest was discovered earlier this year to the northwest of the park.
Thompson pointed to the pesticide DDT as one of the main contributors to the national bird’s decline and the dangers of bringing it back to combat illnesses spread by mosquitoes like the Zika virus.
“The elimination of DDT from our pesticide system was perhaps the most important step in their recovery,” said Thompson. “There is no way to consider the eagles and to use DDT, because it will inevitably get into their food supply.”
DDT was introduced after World War II as a means to revolutionize farming. Adverse effects from the pesticide, though, quickly became apparent.
Combined with Lake Erie pollution in the 1960s, the chemical led to the decline of many fish species that bald eagles depend on. Use of DDT was banned in 1972 with the passage of the Federal Pesticide Act. A year later, the Endangered Species Act was passed with the bald eagle first on the list.
By then, however, the damage had already been done.
In 1963, there were just 417 breeding pairs left in the lower 48 states. Fifteen pairs were located in Erie, Lucas, Ottawa, and Sandusky counties at that time.
Those numbers continued to decline over the next 20 years, culminating in only four pairs being documented in Ohio between 1975 and 1979.
The beginning of a multi-faceted approach to restore Ohio’s bald eagle population came in 1979:
• Placing eagles born in captivity into nests that had been abandoned, mostly due to the effects of DDT.
• Making greater attempts to rehabilitate injured eagles.
• Educating the public and landowners on the importance of protecting eagles and the effects of human interference.
• Creating nests and nesting platforms where no suitable trees existed for a natural alternative.
The state Division of Wildlife hoped to have 20 nesting pairs by the year 2000. It reached that goal eight years early in 1992.
By 1999, approximately 70 nests had returned to Lorain County. That year also saw the bald eagle removed from the endangered species list.
As of 2014, Ohio is home to 200 nesting pairs, with nine of those in Lorain County.
“There has to be some alternative to going back to DDT,” said Thompson. “We can’t take the easy way out.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.
Jonathan Delozier | Wellington Enterprise Naturalist Grant Thompson speaks May 2 on the efforts behind revitalizing the bald eagle population in Ohio.
Photo courtesy of David Lengyel Bald eagles can be seen in the treeline to the northwest of the Wellington Reservation Metro Park on Jones Road. They are part of a growing population in Lorain County that includes eagles in Vermilion, Oberlin, Avon Lake, and North Ridgeville.