Our Revered American Bald Eagle Was Once Maligned — and killed — For The Exact Same “Transgressions” As Are Coyotes Today

2013-06-26 Did you know that our now protected American Bald Eagles were at one time vilified as murderers and vermin in the not too distant past? They were imagined to be grave threats to sheep and small livestock and competitors for fish and game birds. Around the turn of the century they and other bird and animal predators were being eradicated. Sounds like a coyote story, doesn’t it?!

bald-eagle_1_600x450“Newspapers printed exaggerated stories of bald eagles attacking small children, blinding, disfiguring or even carrying them away in their claws, like a 3-year-old girl named Nettie in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., in 1896. (An older girl was said to have stopped the attack by stabbing the bird in the head with her hatpin.) In 1901, The Los Angeles Times described an eagle seizing a 6-month-old baby. The child’s mother, Emma Goulding, reportedly chased the bird for eight miles on mule-back, then climbed a rocky cliff toward its nest, deflecting attacks from both the eagle and its mate as she ascended, killing both. Eventually, Mrs. Goulding found her baby lying in the eagles’ nest unharmed, then tore her skirt up, fashioned it into a rope, and rappelled them both down to safety.”

“By the 1920s, all this vitriol and killing was pushing the bald eagle toward extinction. Early conservationists, trying to warn the public about the eagle’s predicament, found it challenging to defuse all the hatred that had gathered around the bird. Slowly, of course, public opinion turned in the bald eagle’s favor for a variety of reasons, few of which had anything to do intrinsically with bald eagles. The environmental historian Mark V. Barrow Jr. points out that passage of the first national law to protect eagles, the Bald Eagle Protection Act, in 1940, was partly a byproduct of newly booming patriotism on the cusp of World War II. And in the ’60s, the bird became a sympathetic poster child for the new, pernicious form of damage that the pesticide DDT and other pollutants were leveling on the environment. It was one of the first species listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1973.”

Read more about how “we manipulate and manage the world’s wild things to reflect our ideas about what’s right and wrong, about what belongs in nature and what’s an abomination” in Jon Mooallem’s NYT article about “Streaming Eagles”:  http://mobile.nytimes.com/blogs/opinionator/2014/06/20/streaming-eagles/

I wanted to include this article to show that the treatment of eagles was so similar to the way coyotes are being treated in many areas of North America today — and all based, not on truth, but on what folks WANT to believe: Folks seem to WANT to malign them by saddling them with all sorts of untruths. Let’s learn who they are and what they are really like. And let’s stop “managing” our wildlife and just let it be. Nature can manage itself. We need to learn that animals are not bad, they just “are”, and we need to learn to live with it the way it is.

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