From the days of our Founding Fathers, the bald eagle has symbolized America: bold, faithful, strong and determined. The Second Continental Congress in 1782 declared the Bald Eagle as the United States’ national symbol.
Over time, though, hunting, habitat destruction and the pesticide DDT brought the majestic bird to near extinction. By the mid 1960s fewer than five-hundred nesting pairs remained in the U.S. The bird was officially declared an endangered species in 1967. Conservation efforts were so successful that it was taken off the endangered list in 2007.
Benjamin Franklin did not share his colleagues’ admiration for the national bird.
“He is a bird of bad moral character. He does not get his living honestly.” Franklin also characterized the bald eagle as lazy; he deplored its scavenging and stealing food from other animals. Seattle-area residents share Franklin’s judgment.
King County deposits the refuse generated by 1.4 million people at its mammoth landfill south of Seattle. Two-hundred bald eagles make their homes there, feasting on the 2,500 tons of garbage added each day. It’s not always a healthy diet. Some bald eagles die from eating contaminated waste, including barbiturates from scavenging corpses of dogs and cats euthanized by animal shelters. The birds are not tidy; much of the trash they fly away with ends up in neighboring yards.
King County has requested permission from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to use fireworks to keep bald eagles out of their garbage. They presently use pistol-launchers or 12-gauge shotguns to shoot “Bird Bangers,” “Screamer Sirens,” “Whistlers” and other pyrotechnics to keep gulls, starlings and crows away. A specific permit is required for their use against our national symbol.
If you’re in the Seattle vicinity and hear fireworks, it’s not Independence Day celebrated on the wrong date, it’s to prevent our national bird from spewing garbage all over the area.