- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 4, 2007

AVALON, Calif. (AP) — Two bald eagles have hatched in the wild on Santa Catalina Island for the first time since chemical contamination there wiped out the majestic birds decades ago, conservation officials said.

Biologists spotted the first eaglet Saturday and the second one Sunday, said Catalina Island Conservancy officials. The eggs had been laid in a cliffside nest on the 76-square-mile island located off Los Angeles County.

“We were shouting and excited and happy when we got the news,” said Ann M. Muscat, president and chief executive officer of the Catalina Island Conservancy.

The chicks belong to an 8-year-old female and a 21-year-old male introduced under a program aimed at restoring the island’s bald eagle population.

For nearly two decades, biologists have worked to get the adult eagles on Catalina to reproduce without human assistance after contamination from chemical dumping caused their eggs to weaken and dehydrate. The chemicals — DDT and PCB — decimated the bald eagle population and damaged coastal fisheries and seabird populations.

The last time a bald eagle egg hatched in the wild there was in the 1940s, Miss Muscat said.

More than 30 years after the dumping stopped, 20 bald eagles are regularly spotted on Santa Catalina, including five nesting pairs.

In the past, their eggs had been so fragile they had to be removed immediately by humans and incubated in captivity. The chicks were then returned to the nests by helicopter about 10 days after hatching, along with a shell from a goose egg to trick the parents.

After watching the contamination levels drop in recent years, conservation officials decided to try leaving eggs in their nests this year.

“We may have more good news next week,” Miss Muscat said. Another nest also contains eggs that are expected to hatch.

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