Washington Fish and Wildlife Office
Pacific Region

Bald Eagle Management Guidelines and Permitting

Bald eagle on rocks (Photo: Joseph Higbee) Bald eagle in flight (Photo: Rod Gilbert)

As of August 9, 2007, bald eagles are no longer protected under the Endangered Species Act; however, bald and golden eagles remain protected under the Eagle Act (enacted in 1940). The Eagle Act prohibits anyone from “taking” bald eagles. Take is defined as “pursue, shoot, shoot at, poison, wound, kill, capture, trap, collect, molest or disturb".

“Disturb’’ means "To agitate or bother a bald or golden eagle to a degree that causes, or is likely to cause (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."

In addition to immediate impacts, 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.

New or intermittent activity near a bald eagle nest (including alternate nests), communal roost or important feeding area, may disturb bald eagles. The USFWS Pacific Region has guidelines with measures that you can take to avoid that disturbance. These guidelines and additional natural history information about bald eagles can be found at http://www.fws.gov/pacific/eagle/index.html.

A permit can be issued for taking eagles when the take is associated with, but not the purpose of, an activity and cannot practicably be avoided. We refer to this type of take as "non-purposeful take". Authorization is subject to conditions to minimize impacts. The regulation authorizing non-purposeful take permits for bald and golden eagles can be found in the Code of the Federal Register 50 CFR 22.26. For more information about avoiding disturbance or applying for a take (disturbance) permit, contact the Washington Fish and Wildlife Office.

A violation of the Eagle Act can result in a fine of $100,000 ($200,000 for organizations), imprisonment for 1 year, or both, for a first offense. Penalties increase substantially for additional offenses, and a second violation of this Act is a felony.

Eagle Contacts by State

For a list of eagle contacts in the Pacific Northwest, click here


Last updated: April 17, 2017
Washington Fish and Wildlife Office
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