TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) — The bald eagle population in Tippecanoe County is growing. Naturalists say it is a good sign for area rivers and streams.
Mark Bass loves to take photos of wildlife along the Wabash river. He said he sees an increasing amount of bald eagles every year.
“Back when I was a kid, you never saw an eagle in Indiana,” Bass explained. “And then maybe 10 years ago, you started noticing that — Whoa! What’s that big bird there? Why, that’s an eagle!”
The Indiana Department of Natural Resources reintroduced bald eagles to the state more than 20 years ago. Purdue Forestry professor Barney Dunning said since then, the population has taken off.
“There definitely is a dramatic increase in nesting bald eagles,” Dunning said. “I know of at least 19 nests in our stretch of the Wabash, Wildcat Creek and the Tippecanoe River.”
Dunning says the ecological health of an area can be judged by the predatory bird population.
“If you’re supporting healthy populations of the top predators, that’s generally taken to be a sign that the whole food web — in this case the river ecosystem — is healthy,” Dunning said.
DNR biologist Dean Zimmerman said there are about 200 bald eagles living along the Wabash from Logansport to Terre Haute. He said the eagle population disappeared in the early 20th century due to habitat loss, but reintroduction in the 1980s is proving to be a huge success.
“From those roughly 100 birds that were released, they paired up with each other or with some other birds in the Midwest and started nesting,” Zimmerman said. “It’s grown in the last 10 years by leaps and bounds.”
Zimmerman says people are starting to notice the birds’ comeback.
“That makes me feel really good. It’s really awesome to see these birds,” said Zimmerman. “I can see why they picked them as the national bird.”
Bass is also happy to see the return of eagles to the area and hopes to capture even more through his lens.
“It’s just a thrilling thing to see. Great, big bird — majestic, floating through the air,” Bass expressed. “And it’s also a challenge to try to take a picture of one.”