Eagle population in Georgia continues to soar

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(WRDW/WAGT) -- The Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recently completed helicopter surveys of eagle nests around portions of the state, and the results are promising. 110 nests with 127 eaglets were observed in the survey area this year.

The area surveyed included the 6 coastal counties and an area bounded by I-16, I-85, and the South Carolina state line. This is the first year Georgia DNR cut back the survey area to 50% of the state.

The decision was made to cut the survey area after three straight years of over 200 nests observed and a record setting 218 observed last year.

According to Bob Sargent, the nongame conservation section program manager, "we determined that cutting the survey effort by 50% would not compromise our ability to identify and address a decline in productivity of our nesting eagles, should it occur. That was the most crucial consideration".

These numbers showcase a huge success of conservation efforts over the last three decades. When the Southeastern Recovery Plan first got started 30 years, the goal was 20 nests across the state of Georgia.

Eagle populations have soared recently do to a number of factors. Some of these include the United States ban on DDT in 1972, release programs, habitat improvement, and the Endangered Species Act.

Although populations have rebounded, eagles still face a number of threats -- One of the biggest being Avian Vacuolar Myelinopathy, which is a fatal neurological disease that comes from a toxic form of cyanobacteria. ​The cyanobacteria attaches to hydrilla, which is found in area lakes and consumed by waterfowl.

Eagles contract the disease by eating infected waterfowl. Once infected, eagles' motor skills are impaired causing strange behavior while flying and walking before dying. People are also a threat to eagles in the form of poaching and hitting them with cars.

To report an eagle nest you can call 478-994-1438 or visit www.georgiawildlife.com/bald-eagle . To tell the difference between an eagle nest and osprey nest click here.

To view the full press release from DNR, click here.