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Bald eagle nest count in Wisconsin continues to increase

An eagle takes flight after resting in a tree in Douglas County. (Jed Carlson/

Maureen McCollum, Wisconsin Public Radio

The number of bald eagle nests continues to climb in Wisconsin, with biologists again finding record numbers in the state.

“Twenty, 30 years ago, we thought (eagles) were only going to be found in those pristine, north woods habitats and along the rivers,” said Scott Mehus, education director at the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, Minn.

He said that they've now found this isn't the case.

“We’re seeing them move into the cities, we’re seeing them move into farm country,” he said. “If there’s some sort of food source available, they’re moving into those areas.”

Last year, Wisconsin's Department of Natural Resources counted 1,344 nests, up slightly from the year before. In fact, bald eagles are nesting in all but five Wisconsin counties.

While populations grow, the birds still face a number of threats. Lead poisoning, DDT, and vehicles continue to harm bald eagles.

DNR conservation biologist Carly Lapin said it’s important to continue counting bald eagle nests annually, something other states have cut back on, “so that if something should change or something started to affect the eagle population again, we’ll realize it much more quickly than we would just by doing anecdotal observations of how many eagles are around.”

This year’s bald eagle watching events kick off this weekend in Sauk City, Prairie du Sac and Alma.