By Jenna Dooley
An Illinois man behind a longstanding bald eagle count says the latest numbers are alarming, but federal officials say there may be other factors at play.
Terrence Ingram has been in the “eagle counting business” since 1961. He is the President and Executive Director of the Eagle Nature Foundation based in Apple River. The annual winter count is conducted by hundreds of volunteers during the last weekend of January along the Mississippi River and its tributaries.
Now that he’s crunched the numbers, he says there was a sizable drop in the youngest category of eagles tracked. He says the number of so-called “immatures” dropped from 299 last year to 230 this year.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports bald eagle recovery continues to progress at an impressive rate.
Read more from the Chicago Tribune: Bald Eagles Came Back From Brink, But Are Numbers Dropping Again? An Illinois Researcher Fears So
Ingram remains skeptical.
“Well, if they are raising more young, why are we seeing fewer young?” he wonders. “Not just up here, but the whole area from Tennessee to northern Minnesota?”
The service says it values citizen contributions, but adds it’s difficult to confirm downward trends due to changes in temperature and the abundance of prey in an area.
Ingram says that, while his group’s findings run counter to that federal outlook, he admits he can’t pinpoint exactly why.
“I just think we’ve got a real problem out there and, by the time we get around to doing something about it, it may be almost too late.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it is working with states to produce an updated population estimate based on bald eagle nesting surveys.