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Number of nesting pairs of bald eagles in Michigan has doubled in the last 15 years

A Bald eagle perched on a branch
Even with Bald eagle populations rising, the lasting effects of pollution still pose a risk to the eagles and other Michigan wildlife.

After nearly going extinct, the bald eagle population across the United States has been recovering. In Michigan, the number of nesting pairs of bald eagles in Michigan has doubled in the past 15 years.  

Heather Good is the executive director of the Michigan Audubon Society. Good joined Stateside to talk about the bald eagle's recovery, and new challenges facing the birds of prey today.

Good says even after the passage of the Bald Eagle Protection Act in 1940, the widespread use of pesticides like DDT decimated Bald Eagle populations in Michigan. She says DDT bio-accumulates in animals like fish (a favorite food of Bald Eagles), and causes problems.

“In general … [DDT] can cause deformities, neurological damage, brittle eggs, or just the eggs wouldn’t hatch,” Good said. “In the case of the bald eagle, it could impact their breeding season. They might not breed, or their breeding would be delayed.”

Good says there were at one point fewer than 40 pairs of nesting eagles. Nowadays, it’s more than 800.

There are lasting effects of pollution from PCBs and lead. President Donald Trump’s interior secretary recently rescinded an Obama-era rule banning lead shot for shotgun shells and lead sinkers used in fishing.

Listen to the full interview to hear how lasting effects from pollutants like PCBs, lead and mercury which Good says still pose a “substantial threat” to bald eagle populations in Michigan. 

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