Eagles Soaring Across the Arkansas Sky

FEBRUARY 5, 2004 -- Posted at 11:30pm

DEGRAY LAKE RESORT STATE PARK, AR - The number of bald eagles alive in the US is soaring, including populations in Arkansas.

"We need to move animals," said Steve Fowler, a private biologist with Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, "There's very few that have actually been brought back from the endangered list, so this is a great success story."

Eagles were placed on the endangered species list in 1967 after the use of the pesticide DDT increased. Canada and the US banned DDT in 1972. After bouncing back, eagles were downlisted to threatened in 1995. Then a year later, 29 eagles died at DeGray Lake Resort State Park; the first and largest die-off to occur. Another 26 eagles died there the winter of 1996-97.

After extensive research, scientists believe the deaths were likely caused by neurotoxins that develop when algae grows overabundantly. Coots (a species of bird) eat the algae, and eagles eat the coots.

Despite the set-backs, numbers are so strong, federal leaders are considering taking the raptors off of those lists. However, they know the success of the species depends on awareness programs.

"Besides natural death, shooting's the number one way that eagles die," explained Fowler.

There are education outreach activities available through the Little Rock Zoo AND the Arkansas State Parks Department, including eagle tours at DeGray Lake Resort State Park.