NEW LEXINGTON — For citizens of the United States, not only is a census taken for those who reside within its border, but also the creatures that traverse the great American landscape.
Just recently, the Ohio Division of Wildlife attempted to find all of the bald eagle nests, a portion of which is located in Perry County.
The project focusing on finding all eagle nests in the state is the first attempt in nearly eight years for the Ohio Division of Wildlife. The state entity asked fellow citizen scientists to report sightings of the national bird from Feb. 1 to March 31 of 2020.
During the bald eagle census, citizen scientists were reminded that bald eagles are protected under state and the federal Bald Eagle Protection Act. It is also illegal to disturb bald eagles in their habitats.
The Ohio Division of Wildlife outlined rules to guide citizens during its bald eagle excursion. The division stated that citizens should maintain a distance of 330 feet, or 100 meters, away from a nest, keep noise levels down, and minimize time spent in a specific area, as bald eagles have had a history of sensitivity with humans.
On April 22, the Ohio Division of Wildlife reported that through February and March, 707 bald eagle nests were confirmed to be in Ohio.
The Division of Wildlife also stated that the bald eagle is “one of Ohio’s greatest wildlife success stories.”
The eight-year drought of recording bald eagle behavior led to new information and an increase in population sizes being discovered. The results of the nest census showed an increase of 151 percent from the 2012 census. During that time, 281 nests were observed and reported in Ohio.
“The bald eagle is a symbol of American strength and resilience,” Gov. DeWine said during a regularly scheduled press conference. “The eagles come back in Ohio, and across the country proves that we can overcome any challenge when we work together.”
The Ohio Division of Wildlife said it received around 2,500 reports from the public for the 2020 census. The reported nest locations were verified by wildlife staff, involving wildlife officers and biologists, in 85 counties in the state.
The counties, which are located along or around Lake Erie, have been reported to have the highest number of bald eagle nests. Bald eagles have been thriving in the region due to the abundance of food and nesting habitats. The 12 counties with the highest number of nests include Ottawa (90), Sandusky (50), Erie (32), Trumbull (26), Seneca (24), Wyandot (19), Lucas (18), Licking (17), Ashtabula (16), Knox (16), Mercer (16) and Wood (16).
According to the Ohio Division of Wildlife, the bald eagle was once an endangered species, only having “four nesting pairs” living in the state in 1979. Due to the partnerships between the Division of Wildlife, Ohio zoos, wildlife rehabilitation facilities, concerned landowners and sportsmen and women, the population of America’s mascot has seen a resurgence in the state.
After some time and hard work for continued conservation, the bald eagle was removed from the federal list of threatened and endangered species in 2007 and from the state’s list in 2012.
The Ohio Division of Wildlife shared “excellent viewing opportunities” for locals to visit and see America’s mascot. Some places for locals to visit are Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, Pickerel Creek Wildlife Area, Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, Mosquito Creek Wildlife Area and the Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area.
More eagles can be spotted in Southeast Ohio along some major rivers such as Muskingum, Hocking, Scioto and the Great Miami.
In Pickaway County, the Ohio Division of Wildlife reported that in 2012, the area only had approximately three bald eagle nests. In 2020, the population saw an increase of 200 percent totaling up to nine nests in the county.
Pickaway County is a part of a larger category of counties located in central Ohio. Accompanying central Ohio counties included Allen, Champaign, Delaware, Fairfield, Fayette, Franklin, Henry, Knox, Licking, Logan, Madison, Marion, Morrow, Pickaway and Union.
Of the collective central Ohio counties, the total in 2012 was only 36 nests in the region. Now, with an increase of 211 percent, approximately 112 nests can be found in the region.
There are also areas in the state that are now seeing a return of bald eagle nesting. For Perry County in 2012, there were none reported. In 2020, with a 200 percent increase, two nests were reported to be in the county.
Perry County is a part of the Southeast Ohio region, which includes counties such as Athens, Belmont, Coshocton, Gallia, Guernsey, Hocking, Jackson, Lawrence, Meigs, Monroe, Morgan, Muskingum, Noble, Perry, Pike, Ross, Scioto, Vinton and Washington.
According to the Division of Wildlife, bald eagles in Ohio typically lay eggs and incubate in February and March. Young eagles leave the nest about three months later around the time of June. Bald eagles are also known to nest in large trees such as sycamores, oaks and cottonwoods near large bodies of water. Fish and carrion are preferred foods for bald eagles.