The American icon and symbol of strength that was once near extinction has seen a significant resurgence.

In 1782, congress voted to make the bald eagle the national symbol of the new nation despite perceived perceptions that Benjamin Franklin would have preferred the wild turkey to represent the nation. At the time, there were an estimated 100,000 nesting eagles throughout the country. However, in the second half of the 1800s, owing to a decrease in the bald eagles’ natural prey those numbers began to drop dramatically.

American Bald Eagle Population Is Soaring

American Bald Eagle nearly wiped out by DDT

Following the conclusion of World War II, DDT was extensively used in the fight against mosquitoes to eradicate malaria. Unfortunately, for the bald eagle and numerous other species of animals, DDT found its way in waterways. In the case of the bald eagle, DDT was absorbed by the fish it ate causing the birds to lay eggs with shells far too thin to allow for the proper development of its young.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, by 1963 there were only 487 nesting pairs remaining. As a result, the American bald eagle was placed on the Endangered Species List in 1967. Five years later, in 1972, DDT was banned in the United States.

American Bald Eagle resurgence

As a result of the DDT ban, the bald eagle resurgence began nearly immediately and it was removed from the endangered species list in the 1990s. Presently, its estimated that there are just shy of 70,000 bald eagles in the United States with states like Pennsylvania seeing a serious uptick in numbers.

“It’s hard to step away from the fact that they are our nation’s symbol and knowing that they’ve now come back from the brink. I think a lot of people have a lot of pride that we managed to do that,” Patti Barber, a game commission biologist in Pennsylvania, said in a statement on Monday.

New problems for bald eagles (f)lie ahead?

According to Lisa Smith, who leads Tri-state Bird Rescue and Research Inc. in northern Delaware, she has seen more and more bald eagles being treated for injuries sustained by other eagles as they compete for space and food. Her rescue center and others have sprung up to address the problem.

“As the population has increased over the past 20 years, the amount of suitable habitat for bald eagles to breed in has decreased,” Smith said.