American Bald Eagles Restored to Santa Cruz Island

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Date: May 23, 2003
Contact: Yvonne Menard, 805-658-5725

Twelve American bald eagles, the symbol of our nation’s freedom and heritage, will be released into the Northern Channel Islands this summer as a step towards reestablishing the historical island population. On Sunday July 20, 2003 at 7:30 a.m. several of the young bald eagles can be seen at the Channel Islands National Park Visitor Center prior to their trip to Santa Cruz Island. This is the second phase of a five year project to release bald eagles in the northern Channel Islands.

The bald eagle release is part of a larger plan to restore natural resources using a $30 million legal settlement with defendants that dumped DDT and PCBs in the area more than three decades ago. The chemicals entered the food chain and prevented eagles from reproducing successfully. 

The National Park Service and the Nature Conservancy co-own Santa Cruz Island and support the reintroduction of bald eagles as part an island-wide restoration program. The Montrose Settlements Restoration Program (MSRP) will use the eagle release as a feasibility study to determine whether the birds can once again live and reproduce in the northern Channel Islands. The MSRP Trustee Council is made up representatives from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Park Service, California Department of Fish and Game, California State Lands Commission, and California Department of Parks and Recreation. 

Seven of the twelve juvenile bald eagles released in 2002 remain in the Northern Channel Islands. Four of these birds spend the majority of their time on Santa Cruz Island, one is on AnacapaIsland, and two tend to travel between islands. One of the birds released in 2002 has ventured all the way to YellowstoneNational Park in Wyoming.

The twelve birds being introduced to the islands this year will first acclimate in a “hack tower” for about a month prior to taking their first flight. Biologists will monitor the birds by recording their feeding, foraging habits and physical health in their new environment.

Bald eagles, a federally threatened species, disappeared from the islands due to eating food from the ocean that was contaminated with DDT. This caused them to lay thin-shelled eggs that broke easily.

“Bald eagles used to occur on all of the California Channel Islands and are an important symbol of the biological diversity protected by the only national park and marine sanctuary in southern California”, Kate Faulkner, MSRP Trustee and Chief of Natural Resources at Channel Islands National Park explained. “Their return to the Channel Islands brings them closer to recovery and is an important part of restoring the nationally significant ecosystem of the islands”.

Further information, please visit the Montrose Restoration Program.

A fact sheet on the American Eagle and the Restoration Program is available in PDF format at Restoring Bald Eagles Fact Sheet.

Last updated: February 27, 2015

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