Bart the eagle turns 30 | News
FREEDOM, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- An eagle that has become an iconic Maine symbol will turn thirty in the next month. Bart the eagle has become a symbol for the restoration of his species since he was shot in Pennsylvania in 1982.
DDT and other environmental contaminants had reduced Maine's eagle population to 29 nesting pairs by 1972. The University of Maine had begun a Maine Bald Eagle Project. Part of the effort was to monitor every known nesting pair.
An eagle fledgling was banded on Bartlett Island off Maine by graduate student Charlie Todd on June 15, 1982. Todd estimated that the bird was about six weeks old. On December 7 of that year, a hunter shot the juvenile eagle near Rehrsburg, Pennsylvania. The shot went through his left wing, which necessitated amputation of the wing tip.
The bird was identified as the Bartlett Island eagle. Todd discussed it with Professor Ray (Bucky) Owen and fellow graduate student Mark McCullough. They decided to use the Bartlett Island eagle as an "ambassador" of the program. They wanted to teach young Mainers of the harm that was done by shooting eagles.
They named the bird "Bart" and took him along on hundreds of presentations. The visits seem to contribute to the effort of restoring Maine's eagle population. Owen went on to be Maine's Commissioner of Inland Fisheries in Wildlife. Todd and McCullough went on to long careers with IF & W and the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, respectively.
Bart had a long career helping his species recover. He lived at UMaine, Petit Manan National Wildlife Refuge and Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge. Over the years, as eagles became more common in Maine, a "retirement package" was planned for Bart.
He moved to Avian Haven a non-profit wild bird rehabilitation facility in Freedom. He moved in on December 7, 2006, exactly twenty-four years after he was shot.
"Bart seems to be having a happy retirement," says Dr. Diane Winn, who is the Co-Director. She mentors younger eagles who are brought in. This winter, the facility was host to eight eagles. Bart's presence helps them to learn "eagle-ways" so they can be released back into the wild.
Co-Director Marc Payne said, "Eagles only live about thirty years in the wild. Bart seems to be in good shape." Payne says he wouldn't be surprised if Bart lived to forty and beyond.
It is not the life one would chose for an eagle, but Bart has earned the honor and respect that is due to our national symbol.
The eagle was taken off the Endangered and Threatened Species lists in 2009. At that time, Maine had 477 nesting pair and a population that was growing rapidly. Each of the three previous years, biologists had counted more than 300 fledglings per year.
Avian Haven is a non-profit wild-bird rehabilitation facility that treats more than 1200 birds each year. It is located in Freedom, Maine. Bart and the other birds there are not on display, but he does greet occasional visitors with the aplomb expected of a leading ambassador.
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