Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Bald Eagles and Bison

There are about two dozen Bald Eagles on Catalina. The eagles lived on the island, until the 1970's, when a harmful pesticide called DDT wiped them out, and affected many other birds of prey throughout California. DDT increased as it made it's way up through the food chain, weakening the shells of eggs, which caused them to break under their mother as she tried to incubate them. When DDT was banned, the Eagles were reintroduced, and have been recovering their original range slowly. There is a live webcam set up by the Institute for Wildlife Study. It can be accessed by clicking HERE, and clicking on the Eagle photo which says 'Interactive'. Ridiculously cool.

From the Catalina Island Conservancy's website: "The bison were introduced to Catalina. Fourteen head were brought to the Island in the 1920s for the making of a film. Over the last 85 plus years of residence on the Island, bison have become an expected feature, almost iconic, to the Island traveler. A number of tours, literature and attractions feature the bison, which have become rather famous. In 2003, the Conservancy commissioned a scientific study of the bison and their impact on the Island. According to the study, the bison suffer from a poor diet due to frequent drought conditions and a history of overgrazing by other non-native herbivores. 
The study also found that the animals are significantly smaller than mainland bison, and appear in relatively poor nutritional condition.The study additionally concluded that while a large, unrestricted herd of bison can be detrimental to some of the more fragile native habitats, a small herd (between 150 and 200 animals) restricted to certain areas of the Island could be sustained without causing undue stress to native plant communities. The Conservancy is sensitive to the wants and needs of the resident community, and has adopted this strategy. The Conservancy is committed to maintaining a herd of between 150 and 200 animals, the number determined through a scientific study to be optimum for keeping both the herd and the Island ecosystem healthy."

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