Bald Eagles Threatened
Inside the Outdoors, June 7
, 2013

At one time, residents heard about bald eagles, that they were protected and being introduced to our state. Back in 1983, the Pennsylvania Game Commission began a seven-year restoration program in which the agency sent employees to Saskatchewan to obtain eaglets from wilderness nests.

The Richard King Mellon Foundation of Pittsburgh and the Federal Endangered Species Fund provided financial assistance for this effort. In all, 88 bald eaglets from Canada were released from sites at Dauphin County’s Haldeman Island and Pike County’s Shohola Falls. The reintroduction effort along with improving environmental conditions led to the resurgence of the eagles in Pennsylvania.

“When the restoration program began in 1983, stated the PGC, “only three Crawford County nests remained in the state. By 2006, the agency announced that the state had surpassed the 100 bald eagle nest mark. Just five years later, in 2011, the number of known bald eagle nests had doubled to 203 spread out over 50 counties.”

So one may say, “I haven’t seen any in our locale.” Well, they are here, living in Derry Township, seen flying along Loyalhanna Creek, and above Keystone State Park Lake.

The excitement is twofold. First of all, to realize that these birds have made their way from God’s country, Crawford County, southward to Westmoreland County has to be somewhat intriguing.

And second, to actually see one outside a zoo perched in a try or hovering over land or water has to be a thrill of sorts that strikes emotional stir.

Imagine telling a hiker, casual walker or even a neighbor not far from one’s sighting of one of these birds. The first thing out of one’s mouth will be, “You won’t believe what I just saw…” and justifiably, for any bird that is 30 to 40 inches in length, weighs 8 – 14 pounds and has a wingspan of 6 – 8 feet will stir one’s eagerness to tell somebody.

Recently, an individual, possibly two, took upon him (her) self to do the unthinkable – gun down these birds, one in Cambria County and the other in Butler County. Both were killed.

“The Cambria County case has drawn attention nationwide,” the PGC said. “The reward offered in relation to the Cambria County case totals at least $7,200. The Humane Society of the United States and the Wildlife Trust have contributed $5,000, Cambria County Crime Stoppers is offering $2,000, and the Game Commission is offering $250.”

Individuals have taken upon themselves to also contribute funds to increase the reward money offered. Those wishing to make a donation should contact the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen’s Club at 717-232-3480.

Tom Fazi, information and education supervisor of the PGC at Bolivar, stated, “ We recommend that people stay at least 1000 feet from bald eagle nests. Otherwise, the birds become uneasy and restless and it is best that people stay that distance. That is equivalent to more than 3 football fields.”

If someone wishes to contact the PGC in Bolivar about a noted problem or observation such as those mentioned above, one may call 724-238-9523.

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Dan McMasters of Ligonier Outfitters and Newsstand and Forbes Trail Chapter Trout Unlimited’s Don Kowatch’s idea of selling pins to stock the Delayed Harvest Artificial Lure Only with more trout is paying off already. A gent approached me in Legion Keener Park to show me some of the lunker trout his son caught fly fishing in that area recently. One of the two was a palomino. Just for the record, they were caught on dry flies.

Another gent stopped me on Irving Avenue while I was out walking to tell me he had hooked onto a palomino not far from Pig Iron in the Loyalhanna Creek. He had reeled it in to his person, when it wiggled off his hook. He was cheerful about his adventure, and I know he would have thrown the fish back. At least he returned home all smiles.


- Paul J. Volkmann
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