Bald eagles are making a comeback in Nebraska.
Game and Parks officials say there were 90 active nests in the state this year - that's nearly double the record-setting 54 nests in 2007.
"We had our first active and successful bald eagle nest in 1991, so that increase has gone from one to 90 in the past two decades," said Joel Jorgensen, Nebraska Game and Parks.
Jorgensen says stopping the use of DDT and other pesticides, as well as curbing illegal shooting has helped bald eagles return.
"Really the big thing we're doing is just getting out of the way," he said. "This a situation where the species is really recovering on its own and it doesn't really need a lot of help."
Places like Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation's hydroelectric plant south of Lexington are giving people an up close look at the conservation success story.
"In the past workers at the plant would notice that bald eagles congregated here every year and somebody back in the 80's came up with the good idea to let the public come in and also see them," said CNPPID's Jeff Buettner.
Buettner says J-2 is a popular hang out for eagles in the winter because the turbulent water at the plant's base keeps ice from forming on that stretch of the canal. The birds can then catch fish in that open area.
"If you see a really cold icy winter day that translates normally into a good number of bald eagles right below the plant," said Buettner.
Buettner says it depends on the weather, but J-2 usually has 15-20 eagles in the area each day, but viewing is best in the morning.
Officials say the statewide numbers show that conservation efforts and keeping eagles protected by state and federal laws are helping the population grow. Nebraska's dramatic increase is somewhat surprising because eagles don't reproduce until they are 4-5 years old, and they only have 2-3 eggs per year.
CNPPID Eagle-Viewing Facilities:
The J-2 facility located south of Lexington is open on Saturdays and Sundays from 8:00 am - 2:00 pm (CST) for the rest of the season (usually until late February).
The Kingsley Dam facility near Ogallala will open on January 7 with a special presentation from Raptor Recovery Nebraska at 10:00 am (MST). Kingsley will then be open on Saturdays and Sundays from 8:00 am - 4:00 pm (MST) for the rest of the season (usually until late February).
A limited number of binoculars are available at both facilities, but visitors are encouraged to bring their own viewing equipment. Viewing is best earlier in the day. There's no charge to visit either facility.
For more information and directions, click on the web link below.