Saving our nation’s symbol on national wildlife refuges

Bald Eagle

Bald eagle at Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge in Maryland. Photo by Thomas Barnes.

National Wildlife Refuges have a special connection with the protection and recovery of some of our country’s most iconic species. The three refuges highlighted below share a special connection with our national symbol – the bald eagle. Thanks in part to conservation efforts at these refuges and others, bald eagles successfully recovered and were removed from the list of threatened and endangered species in 2007.

a nice composition_usfws katrina krebs

Credit: Katrina Krebs / USFWS

 Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia was established in 1969 as the first national wildlife refuge established explicitly for the protection of bald eagles. All who love the refuge (and eagles) can thank Elizabeth Hartwell, a local resident, who did not want to see Mason Neck peninsula commercially developed and organized an effort to conserve the area. The refuge currently contains 2,277 acres of land, including forest, marsh and riverine habitat and lies 18 miles south of Washington D.C. on the banks of the Potomac River. Mason Neck is part of the Potomac River National Wildlife Refuge Complex.

Did you know that bald eagles are believed to mate for life? Click here to learn more about their breeding habits.

banded eaglet_tim kaufman

Credit: Tim Kaufman / USFWS

 Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge in New York was established in 1938 as a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife. The refuge is the site of the country’s first bald eagle hacking program. The term “hacking” is not as morbid as it may sound. It only means to release young bald eagles to the wild. The program began in 1976 as an effort between the Service and the New York State Department of Conservation in an effort to reintroduce the bald eagle to the state. From 1976 to 1980, a total of 23 bald eagles were released at the refuge as a result of the hacking program.

Did you know that DDT, which was heavily used as a pesticide prior to 1972, helped contribute to the temporary downfall of bald eagle populations across the country? Click here to learn more about how it happened. DDT was banned in 1972 by the Environmental Protection Agency. 

credit Rosie Walunas NE Region USFWS

Bald eagle at the USFWS Northeast Regional Office in Massachusetts. Credit: USFWS / Rosie Walunas

Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia was established in 1996 to conserve and protect fish and wildlife resources. It is also Virginia’s largest wintering roost for bald eagles! You can find them roosting and nesting throughout the refuge. When you visit, be sure to find mature canopy trees overlooking creeks and you may see a bald eagle. The refuge is part of the Eastern Virginia Rivers NWR Complex.

Did you know that the oldest recorded bald eagle in the wild was 38 years old? Click here to learn more about this fact and others.

Next time you are in the area of one of these refuges make sure to stop by. You may just be lucky enough to spot a bald eagle!


4 thoughts on “Saving our nation’s symbol on national wildlife refuges

  1. Bill Crouch

    Thank you for this great article Meghan! We welcome folks to come see the many eagles found year-round at Rappahannock River Valley and James River National Wildlife Refuges in Virginia.

  2. Lisa

    Don’t forget Blackwater NWR (Maryland), which has the largest concentration of breeding bald eagles on the East Coast, north of Florida.


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