State Wildlife Officials Release Bald Eagle Chicks in Tyngsborough
TYNGSBOROUGH – Wednesday, June 27, 2012 – Department of Fish and Game (DFG) Commissioner Mary Griffin today helped release two 12-week-old bald eaglets on private property in Tyngsborough. The birds had fallen from an unstable nest on the property in early May and were placed in the care of rehabilitators who helped the state-listed birds grow and develop their flying skills. For identification purposes, the two eaglets released were outfitted with a federal silver band on the right leg and an easy-to-read burnt orange band on the left leg, a band color unique to Massachusetts eaglets.
Commissioner Griffin was joined by biologists from DFG’s Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife), wildlife rehabilitators David Taylor of Newbury and Dr. Maureen Murray of the Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine’s Wildlife Clinic, and the couple who first responded to the plight of the young birds – Dr. Paul Kaplan and Brenda Eunson of Tyngsborough.
“This release is a wonderful opportunity to thank the various people and entities who worked together to help these magnificent birds as they enter a new phase in their development,” said Commissioner Griffin. “Thanks to vigorous restoration efforts of state, federal, and private sector partners, I am also pleased to report that this year; the bald eagle’s population status was changed from endangered to threatened on the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act list.”
The story of these young birds began in early May when someone saw an eagle chick fall from its nest and contacted Dr. Kaplan, a veterinary cardiologist. He, and his wife Brenda, recognized that the bird was injured, picked up the bird for transport, and provided fluids for the bird.
MassWildlife’s Tom French, Assistant Director for Natural Heritage and Endangered Species, made arrangements to pick up the chick and have it transported to Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine’s Wildlife Clinic in Grafton for examination and care where veterinarians determined that the young bird suffered pelvic fractures from its fall.
The following day, a second chick was seen falling from the same nest, though it did not suffer injuries. Again Dr. Kaplan was contacted, as was David Taylor of Newbury, a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, who picked up this chick and cared for it. When the first bird healed, it was placed with its sibling in Taylor’s care. Because the birds needed space to practice their flying skills, the Wildlife Clinic made its flight cage available for the birds to use once they were old enough. Eaglets normally fledge – fly from the nest – at about 11-12 weeks of age.
A victim of habitat loss, unregulated shooting, and reproductive failure linked to pesticide exposure, bald eagle populations had plummeted across the country by the time they were placed on the U.S. Endangered Species List in 1973. In Massachusetts, eagles were listed as endangered in 1979. Eagle numbers in the Bay State have since rebounded thanks in large part to MassWildlife’s restoration project begun in 1982. MassWildlife and its partners brought young eagles from Canada and Michigan and raised them in cages overlooking the Quabbin Reservoir, a common wildlife management practice known as “hacking”. The eaglets, after fledging, established breeding territories at the reservoir, thus beginning the comeback of the nation’s symbol to Massachusetts.
As of 2011, there were 35 occupied bald eagle territories including the Quabbin Reservoir, Connecticut and Merrimack Rivers, and areas in Plymouth, Bristol, Berkshire and Worcester Counties. Twenty-two pairs of adult eagles successfully raised 37 chicks in 2011. MassWildlife makes efforts to band eagle chicks each spring for identification purposes. Since this year’s nesting season is ongoing, results of MassWildlife’s eagle chick banding are still being compiled, but the number of nesting pairs across the state continues to grow.
Bald eagle restoration efforts in Massachusetts are funded by several sources, including hunting and fishing license fees (Inland Fish & Game Fund), the Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Fund, as well as support from National Grid, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Massachusetts Audubon Society. Involvement of the Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine’s Wildlife Clinic has resulted in the release of numerous injured eagles that might otherwise have died.
The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) is responsible for promoting the conservation and enjoyment of the Commonwealth's natural resources. DFG carries out this mission through land protection and wildlife habitat management, management of inland and marine fish and wildlife species, and ecological restoration of fresh water, salt water, and terrestrial habitats. DFG promotes enjoyment of the Massachusetts environment through outdoor skills workshops, fishing festivals and other educational programs, and by enhancing access to the Commonwealth's rivers, lakes, and coastal waters.
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