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The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act More Resources

The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act

The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (16 U.S.C. 668-668c), enacted in 1940, prohibits anyone from "taking" bald eagles, including their parts, nests or eggs without a permit issued by the Secretary of the Interior.

The Eagle Act identifies criminal penalties for persons who "take, possess, sell, purchase, barter, offer to sell, purchase or barter, transport, export or import, at any time or any manner, any bald eagle ... [or any golden eagle], alive or dead, or any part, nest, or egg thereof." The Eagle Act defines "take" as "pursue, shoot, shoot at, poison, wound, kill, capture, trap, collect, molest or disturb."

For purposes of the National Bald Eagle Management Guidelines, "disturb" means: "to agitate or bother a bald or golden eagle to a degree that causes, or is likely to cause, based on the best scientific information available,

  1. injury to an eagle,
  2. a decrease in its productivity, by substantially interfering with normal breeding, feeding, or sheltering behavior, or
  3. nest abandonment, by substantially interfering with normal breeding, feeding, or sheltering behavior."

This definition also covers impacts that result from human-induced alterations initiated around a previously used nest site during a time when eagles are not present, if, upon the eagle's return, such alterations agitate or bother an eagle to a degree that interferes with or interrupts normal breeding, feeding or sheltering habits, and causes injury, death or nest abandonment.

A violation of the Act can result in a fine of $100,000 ($200,000 for organizations) and imprisonment for one year for a first offense. Penalties increase substantially for additional offenses, and a second violation of this Act is a felony.

A PDF of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act is available here.

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Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act

National Bald Eagle Management Guidelines

Permit regulations to authorize limited "take" of bald eagles or their nests (pdf)

Bald eagle natural history and sensitivity (pdf)

Management at a Glance

Two factors most influence an eagle's response to human activity:

  1. The activity's visibility from the eagle nest and;
  2. The regular occurrence of similar activities near the nest.

General recommendations to avoid disturbing nesting bald eagles:

  1. Keep distance between the activity and the nest (distance buffers).
  2. Maintain forested or natural areas between the activity and the nest tree (landscape buffers).
  3. Avoid certain activities during the nesting season (timing buffers).


Last updated: May 22, 2013