State game officials say the number of bald eagles in the commonwealth has grown dramatically three decades after efforts to restore the population began.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission says 252 eagle nests have been confirmed throughout Pennsylvania so far this year, with nesting sites in 56 of the 67 counties.
That represents a big increase from last year's midyear report, which noted only 206 confirmed nests in 51 counties.
"We're to the point in Pennsylvania where the bald eagle's success is something that's expected,'' Carl Roe, the commission's executive director, said in a news release. "Year after year, their numbers grow. Year after year, their range grows broader.''
Thirty years ago, officials said, only three pairs of nesting eagles were recorded in the state, all in Crawford County along the Ohio border, after the population had been reduced by such things as water pollution and pesticides.
As part of the effort launched in 1983, the commission sent employees to Canada to obtain eaglets from wild nests. The birds were raised in specially constructed towers near Harrisburg and in Pike County and then gradually released into the wild. A total of 88 bald eaglets were eventually released as part of the program funded by the federal government and the Mellon foundation.
By 1998, officials said, there were 25 pairs of nesting bald eagles in the commonwealth, and that number doubled within the next three years. In 2005, the Game Commission took the bald eagle off the state's endangered list and reclassified it as a threatened species, a classification that remains in effect.