Rescued from extinction: How bald eagles made their return in NJ

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There was once only one nesting pair of bald eagles left in New Jersey. But today, there are now over 200 pairs after the species was rescued from the brink of extinction.

Back in the 1970s, the last remaining pair of bald eagles in New Jersey nested in a remote stretch of forest and marsh in Dividing Creek, Cumberland County, in a place called “Bear Swamp.”

But every year from 1976 to 1982, their babies died or the eggs cracked from the DDT pesticides that had pushed their species to the brink nationwide.

“The shells were too fragile for the eggs to be viable,” says Mae Axelrod with the conservation group Natural Lands.

So, in 1982, scientists launched a drastic plan to save the species. They replaced the pair’s sterile egg with a chick from a nest in Maryland. The pair of eagles adopted the chick and it fledged.

Over the next few years, they did this with 11 more chicks brought in from Canada. Meanwhile, Natural Lands, which owns the 6,000-acre Glades Wildlife Refuge that includes Bear Swamp, raised 56 more Canadian chicks in a sort of aerial nursery and reintroduced them to the wild.

"This is the site of an international effort and a community effort with incredible support from the government and from nonprofits to bring them back. It took a lot and it took many years,” Axelrod says.

There are now six bald eagle nests in the Glades Wildlife Refuge. The eagles have begun to nest their offspring and by spring, the birds will be soaring across every corner of the state.

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