Our opinion: A wildlife success story

There was a time when seeing a bald eagle in Pennsylvania was a singular life event, they were that rare.

Now, there is hardly a person who has turned their eyes skyward in search of them who hasn’t seen one.

And yet, they remain thrilling, each sighting awe-inspiring.

Last week, the Pennsylvania Game Commission announced it is considering upgrading the eagle’s status from threatened to protected. It’s a largely symbolic step, but it speaks to one of the great wildlife success stories of the past half century.

Just 30 years ago, there were only three nesting pairs of bald eagles catalogued in the state, all of them in Crawford County. The latest official count indicates there are at least 266 nesting pairs in 56 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. There are several in Warren County.

It is not just their patriotic symbolism of strength and grace that draws us to the birds, but their unique majesty, whether they are perched and scanning their environment for food or gliding inches above Chapman Lake or the Allegheny River, plucking a fish in their talons.

You still hear occasional reports of someone shooting an eagle, and the story never ceases to disgust. It’s almost as if someone trashed the Great Seal, not out of some political protest, but rather out of senseless vandalism.

The Game Commission takes a very dim view of tampering with bald eagles, and so do we.

Thanks to the agency’s efforts, as well as those wildlife preservation groups which educate and garner public support, the bald eagle has turned the corner in Pennsylvania.

It is proof that a species, although decimated by decades of abuse and the dangerous effects of certain pesticides, can be brought back from the brink of extinction.

Our skies are the better for it.