Pennsylvania's bald eagle population could be taken of the state's threatened species list.
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners will consider a proposal to de-list the species at a meeting in September and make an official ruling at a later date.
Game Commission spokesman Travis Lau said the recommendation to move the eagle from the threatened to the protected list comes after the species met a list of criteria for five consecutive years. The criteria include:
- At least 150 active nests statewide
- Successful pairs in 40 counties
- 60 percent success rate of known nests
- Productivity of at least 1.2 eaglets fledged per successful nest
According to a news release, three of the criteria have been met for a five-year period, and this year eagles will surpass the requirement for nesting in 40 counties for a fifth year.
A biologist with the bureau's Endangered and Non-game Birds section told the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners that 266 nesting pairs were documented in 2013 in 56 counties.
Lau said the difference between "threatened" and "protected" species are that some of the state laws that punish disturbance of eagle nests, killing of bald eagles and other protections are removed when they are classified as "protected."
Still, Lau said bald eagles enjoy a number of federal protections, and the change does not mean the eagles are being left to fend for themselves.
"As far as we're concerned, we're not abandoning the bald eagle by any means in upgrading its status," he said. "It is, more or less, just a symbol of how successful its come back has been."
This year three nests have been identified in Allegheny County, two of them within the city of Pittsburgh.
The Game Commission will continue to monitor nests, at least through 2017.