A rehabilitated bald eagle in New Jersey was released back into the wild as the state's wildlife officials attempted to draw attention to the recovery of the area's birds of prey.
The Division of Fish and Wildlife of New Jersey's Department of Environmental Protection made the announcement,
saying that taxpayers have given the department a big boost through the state's annual income tax check-off on Form NJ-1040 for the endangered and nongame species program.
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"The health of our wildlife populations is a good indicator of the overall health of the environment," said David Chanda, the state's Division of Fish and Wildlife director. "This is particularly true of birds of prey, also known as raptors, which have made remarkable recoveries in New Jersey over the past several decades. Populations of peregrine falcons, ospreys, and bald eagles continue to climb in New Jersey."
The Department of Environmental Protection said in a statement that the state's bald eagle population increased to 148 territorial pairs in 2013, up from 135 in 2012. Of that number, 119 pairs actively laid eggs.
The department said 96 of those nests produced 176 young bald eagles. The annual 2013 mid-winter eagle survey counted 297 bald eagles, with 264 nesting in the southern part of the state and 33 in the northern New Jersey.
"Not long ago, it would have been nearly miraculous to see a bald eagle in many parts of New Jersey — yet today we can marvel at this majestic creature returning to our skies," David Wheeler, executive director of the Conserve Wildlife Foundation, said in the department's statement.
"The inspiring recovery of bald eagles and other raptors across the Garden State is testament to the hard work and visionary collaboration of the state and Conserve Wildlife Foundation and speaks to the many dedicated volunteers whose passion and knowledge have helped so much," Wheeler added.
The bald eagle was first protected by law in 1940 when the species was on verge of extinction, with the passage of the Bald Eagle Protection Act. An amendment in 1962 added the golden eagle to the law, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The bald eagle was taken off the endangered species list in 2007 as their numbers grew to at least 9,789 nesting pairs in the contiguous United States, according to the service.
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