January is Eagle Awareness Month in Arkansas. To celebrate, I attended the Eagle Awareness Weekend at Petit Jean State Park. Bald Eagle numbers in the lower 48 states have now increased from 417 nesting pairs in 1967 to more than 10,000 nesting pairs in recent years. However, this still hasn’t helped me reach my goal of seeing an adult Bald Eagle.
The Bald Eagle gained federal protection in 1940 and its population was severely threatened by the widespread use of the pesticide DDT after World War II. DDT caused Bald eagles to lay eggs with weakened shells.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service changed the Bald Eagle’s status from endangered to threatened in 1995. In 2007, the Bald Eagle was taken off the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants.
To accomplish my goal, Petit Jean park rangers took a group including my aunt and I to nearby Holla Bend National Wildlife Refuge, a 7,055 acre refuge that was established in 1957 as a result of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers navigation and flood control project.
Sixty-five families lived and farmed the rich bottomland soil, however, a devastating flood in 1927 was the first of many that eventually drove the families out. Today, it is home to the various species that can typically be found in a bottomland hardwood forest including white-tailed deer.
The refuge has as many as 235 species of birds — wintering waterfowl, migratory songbirds and year-round resident bird species. It is also on the northern edge of the American alligator’s range and is home to animals such as the cottontail and swamp rabbits, beaver, river otter, coyote, wild turkeys and bobcats.
Here’s some more pictures from my trip.