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Iowa Bald Eagle population swelling to the delight of locals

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JOHNSON COUNTY, Iowa (KWWL) - The Iowa Department of Natural Resources reports Bald Eagle sightings more than twice their usual marks in some counties, after annual counts earlier this month.

"It's quite a spectacle to see," Steve Woodruff said, a biologist with the Iowa DNR. "When I was younger, you were lucky to see one."

DNR teams in Johnson County reported 697 Bald Eagles along the Iowa River earlier this month. That number is usually around 300.

"Now, the eagle population is pretty healthy," Woodruff said.

Woodruff says this is a combination of improved water quality in the area, a milder winter thus far which has prevented ice over most rivers, and banning the pesticide DDT which decimated the eagle population before 1972.

People around the county have noticed their rebound this winter.

"The scenery itself is nice but in the winter time, we always get a visit," Ben Magel of Iowa City said. "There's some nesting pairs that hang out around here year-round."

The DNR says people should not get closer than 300 feet to an eagle, however; as they waste valuable energy when disturbed. This energy is crucial to their survival, especially with their nesting season about to begin.

"We do out best to give them their space. They certainly were her before we were," Magel said.

The "take, possession, sale, purchase, barter, offer to sell, purchase or barter, transport, export or import," of any bald or golden eagle, alive or dead, is punishable by up to $100,000 with possible jail time for a first offense. That's according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service, under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.

You can view KWWL's Decorah Eagles live-cam here.

Travis Breese

Reporter, Iowa City

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