Bald Eagles face many threats, including habitat loss, lead poisoning, electrification, and illegal shooting. After WWII, Bald Eagle reproduction rates plummeted as DDT interfered with their ability to produce strong eggshells. By 1963, only 487 nesting pairs of Bald Eagles remained in the United States. The banning of DDT and the protection offered by listing under the Endangered Species Act have helped the Bald Eagle population to recover to upwards of 10,000 nesting pairs.
Teton Raptor Center is using DNA collected from a 34-year-old Bald Eagle that we treated in our rehabilitation program, as wells as other samples from known breeding eagles from the 1980s and 1990s, to study how the population has expanded within and beyond the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. For the past several weeks, we have been banding and taking DNA samples from Bald Eagle nestlings to map their genetic relationships and better understand population genetics of a recovered species.
We work closely with Michael Whitfield of the Heart of the Rockies Initiative, Ron Van Den Bussche and Megan Judkins of Oklahoma State University, and Susan Patla of Wyoming Game and Fish Department. An additional thank you to Grand Teton National Park and all private landowners who allow us to do our research.
Banner photo by Kendra David