In 1982, New Jersey’s only remaining bald eagle nest failed for at least the sixth consecutive year.
Every year, the eagle eggs at the Bear Swamp nest were just too thin to withstand normal incubation—a result of residual contamination from the pesticide DDT. With hopes of securing a future for the species in the Garden State, biologists intervened.
“In a delicate procedure, we removed the egg after just two weeks, replacing it with a fake egg to keep the adults incubating at the nest,” says Kathleen Clark, a biologist with the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program (ENSP). “The real egg was delivered to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland for artificial incubation.”
With the help of lightweight, incubating chickens, the eagle egg hatched. After two weeks of monitoring, the eaglet was placed back into the nest at Bear Swamp. Artificial incubation continued successfully at Bear Swamp until 1989, when a new adult female, unimpaired by DDT, began nesting and was able to hatch eggs without assistance. The eagle nest remains active today.
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While biologists worked to make Bear Swamp productive, they tackled another project that involved bringing in young wild eagles from Canada, where they were common, and raising them until fledging. The project ran from 1983 through 1990, and resulted in the release of 60 young eagles.
“Bald eagles now grace the skies over New Jersey’s coastal rivers, estuaries, farmland and woodlands,” says Clark. “But this resurgence blossomed only recently, after decades of work by biologists in our program and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.” … Read the rest of the story!