Growing up in Maine, you get used to seeing plenty of wildlife. But no matter how many deer or moose or bears or wild turkeys you spot during your day-to-day travels, there’ s one image that’ s always a special treat: the soaring silhouette of a bald eagle.
At least, it would have been a treat when I was growing up had I ever seen one.
And as I sit here and think back on my childhood during the 1960s and ‘ 70s, I can’ t honestly say I ever saw a real, live bald eagle.
I remember road trips with the family and hasty exclamations punctuated with pointing fingers. “Bald eagle!”
I remember craning my neck and peering out the windows of our Volkswagen, trying to spot the bird in question.
And I remember saying that I saw what everyone else saw & even if I didn’ t.
But I don’ t really remember seeing a bald eagle until about 15 years ago, when I was nearing 30 years old.
Thinking back, that’ s not all too surprising, I suppose.
For my generation of Mainers, spotting bald eagles has been a special occasion for a very simple reason: We grew up in an era when nearly none of them were left. Actually seeing one was cause for celebration.
And celebrate, we did (whether we actually saw the bird or not).
Today, things are different. While I’ m quite certain I never saw an actual eagle before I turned 25, I’ m also quite certain that I can’ t tell you exactly how many eagles I’ ve spotted in the past year.
I know I saw one on Friday, soaring over Bangor’ s waterfront. I know I spied another a few weeks back, out at our family camp in Otis.
And I know I saw a few more during the spring Atlantic salmon season on the Penobscot.
Spotting the majestic birds has become more commonplace & but no less special.
Thanks to the efforts of biologists, including Maine’ s Charlie Todd and George Matula Jr., bald eagles have enjoyed a tremendous resurgence over the past 20 years.
Tonight, the latest step in that long process will take place, as the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife holds a public hearing on a proposal to remove bald eagles from the state’ s list of endangered and threatened species.
The hearing will take place at the Ramada Inn on Odlin Road in Bangor beginning at 6:30 p.m.
According to information included with the DIF&W hearing notice, back in 1978 the eagle population had diminished to such a degree that only 21 nesting pairs existed in Maine. Another pair had been identified in New York.
And those 22 pairs were the only breeding eagles to be found between Chesapeake Bay and Canada.
Not surprisingly, the federal and state governments listed the bald eagle under their endangered species acts.
Today, there are at least 473 nesting pairs of bald eagles in the state, according to biologists. Those eagles produce more than 300 offspring a year, and the federal government removed bald eagles from its own list of endangered and threatened species in 2007.
Now, the state is preparing to do the same thing.
That’ s cause for celebration.
Biologists have recognized many of the problems that faced eagles and have helped us correct past mistakes.
Now, the DIF&W feels it’ s appropriate to recognize that progress by de-listing eagles.
It’ s important to note, however, that removing eagles from a list doesn’ t mean our nation’ s symbol will be ignored in future management and conservation efforts.
Eagles will remain important, and our state’ s biologists (along with those at the federal level) will continue to fight on their behalf.
If you’ ve got an opinion on the matter, stop by the hearing this evening. Or if you want to submit written comments, you can do so until Aug. 11 by sending them to Andrea Erskine at the DIF&W, 41 SHS, 284 State St., Augusta 04333-004. Comments can be e-mailed to Andrea.Erskine@maine.gov.
Two wardens promoted
The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife has promoted two veteran game wardens to the rank of sergeant.
William P. Chandler will oversee six wardens in the southern Piscataquis County section, while Donald “Scott” Thrasher will supervise six more in western Piscataquis and northern Somerset counties.
Both are highly decorated wardens with more than 10 years’ experience with the Maine Warden Service.
Congratulations to both.