January 21, 1998

For more information contact:
Larry Niles at 609-292-9101

According to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife, 119 bald eagles and 6 golden eagles were counted by the scores of birding enthusiasts who participated in the Division's Annual Mid-Winter Bald Eagle Survey held statewide January 10-11. The survey was sponsored by New Jersey's Endangered Wildlife Tax Check-Off Program coordinated by the Division's Endangered and Nongame Species Program (ENSP) and focused on known eagle wintering areas throughout the Garden State.

"Recent wintering eagle counts confirm reports that eagle numbers are increasing in the northeast and the lower 48 states," said Division Director Bob McDowell. "New Jersey residents who have donated to the Income Tax Check-Off for Wildlife on the state income tax form can take pride in knowing they have helped to restore the bald eagle population in our state."

In north Jersey, Mid-Winter Survey sites included the upper Delaware River from the Water Gap to Port Jervis, and some of the major reservoirs like Round Valley, Boonton and Wanaque. In the south, surveyors focused on the major river systems flowing into the Atlantic Ocean and Delaware Bay.

According to the information collected, a total of 42 adults and 49 immature bald eagles were tallied by volunteers throughout the southern portion of the state. In the northern portion of the state, volunteers counted 15 mature and 12 immature bald eagles, as well as one bird of unknown age.

"The increase in the number of wintering eagles in New Jersey is a reflection of the population trend in this part of the country over the past several years. Due to the work of wildlife biologists in all states, bald eagle nesting is on the rise here and elsewhere throughout the Northeast," said Larry Niles, chief of the division's ENSP.

Many of the adult eagles counted in southern New Jersey are birds that breed here. Since the nesting season is just a few weeks away, several eagles were observed close to known eagle nests. Volunteers occasionally witness nest building activity and mating behavior that sometimes leads to the discovery of new nests.

Last spring, there were 14 active eagle nests in New Jersey. Given the amount of available habitat and increased eagle production over the past few years, biologists expect eagle nesting to continue to increase in New Jersey.

Niles warns, however, "Despite our successes with the bald eagle and many other rare species, funding for endangered and threatened species protection and management is in severe jeopardy."

Revenues from the Income Tax Check-Off for Wildlife, the program's main funding source, have fallen sharply in recent years. Check-Off revenues have gone from a high of about $510,000 to just $350,000 last year.

"If this trend continues, it will threaten our ability to protect and manage eagles and many other rare species that depend on our continued efforts for survival in New Jersey," Niles added.

This year, taxpayers will have a choice between five competing check-offs on the state income tax form. The additional check-offs have the potential to further reduce funding for endangered and threatened wildlife.

For those who have never thrilled to the sight of a bald eagle in the wild, New Jersey offers excellent viewing opportunities during the winter months. In northern New Jersey, areas such as Poxono Island, Wallpack Bend and the Route 206 bridge near Milford, PA, offer excellent opportunities for viewing eagles on the upper Delaware River.

In south Jersey, Bear Swamp, Turkey Point and the Cohansey and Maurice rivers are productive areas along the Delaware Bay. Along the Atlantic Coast, the Great Egg Harbor, Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge and the Wading and Mullica rivers all offer good eagle viewing opportunities.

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