- Associated Press - Thursday, July 16, 2015

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - South Dakota’s Game, Fish and Parks Department will decide next month whether to remove the bald eagle from the state’s list of endangered and threatened species.

The bird was taken off the federal list in 2007, though bald eagles are still federally protected.

“Biological information supports that this species has recovered in South Dakota to the point that it no longer qualifies as a state threatened species,” said Eileen Dowd Stukel, wildlife diversity coordinator for Game, Fish and Parks.

Widespread use of DDT and other pesticides in the mid-1900s decimated the bald eagle population. After that happened, the first successful breeding pair of bald eagles in South Dakota was not documented until 1993. There are now an estimated 300 breeding bald eagles across the state, the Rapid City Journal reported (http://bit.ly/1RBaa7r ).

“We know that number sounds low, but it’s a pretty significant increase over the years and the species is on the upswing,” Dowd Stukel said.

Since about 2004, the five-year average of 25 active nests called for in the state’s bald eagle recovery plan has been met.

A public hearing on a proposal to de-list the bald eagle is scheduled Aug. 6 in Aberdeen. State wildlife officials are to vote on the proposal either that day or the next.

John Halverson, co-founder and educational director of the Black Hills Raptor Center in Rapid City, was 9 years old in 1972 when he first learned that bald eagles were considered endangered. He remembers thinking, “I hope I get to see one someday.”

“In my anecdotal experience, eagles are more common than ever,” Halverson said. “I see an eagle, I chart it and go about my day. I’m not even excited anymore. I say the fact that I’ve seen so many recently that I’m bored with them is a very positive sign.”

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