Ohio’s bald eagle population is flying high with a record 164 nests in 45 counties this year, according to tallies by the Ohio Division of Wildlife.

Of the record raft of nests, 115 were successful in fledging young, with current reports indicating 186 eaglets. That production is down from the record production of 205 eaglets in 2006, when 110 of 150 nests were successful.

This year 17 new nests were identified in 14 counties. It was the 20th consecutive year for expansion of the breeding eagle population. The somewhat lower nest success could be attributed to, among other things, an untimely early spring ice storm, which ruined some nests.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with the continued recovery of the bald eagle in Ohio,” said Dave Graham, state wildlife chief. “This is an accomplishment not only for our staff but all Ohioans.”

Indeed, state biologists would be unable to keep track of and monitor nesting status without the hundreds of hours of field observations logged by a corps of eagle-watch volunteers, who track and report nest activities weekly.

Newly removed from the federal endangered species list, eagles have made a dramatic comeback from near oblivion in the lower 48 states in the last 30 years. In 1979, only four nests were known in Ohio. The wildlife division and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, in cooperation with scores of volunteers, helped reestablish the eagle in Ohio through habitat development and protection, fostering of young eagles in the early years when numbers were perilously low, and extensive nest observation.

Most nests are located in the Lake Erie shore zone but more and more are being developed inland along major river corridors and along major water impoundments, some as far inland as Delaware, Hancock, Mercer, and Wyandot counties.

New nests this year were found in the following counties: Crawford, 2; Marion, 2; Sandusky, 2; Erie, Geauga, Knox, Ottawa, Pickaway, Portage, Summit, Trumbull, Tuscarawas, Washington, and Wyandot. Most nests have been found on private land. The average nest is three to five feet wide and three to six feet deep, usually built of sticks in a tall tree.

Both males and females share in incubation and feeding of young eaglets, which grow to adult size in about 12 weeks. Thus the members of the 2007 year-class are as big as their parents, although they will retain mostly brown plumage until age five or six, when they grow the distinctive white head and tail plumage of adults.

The Michigan Natural Resources Commission has approved three changes in deer hunting rules for 2007 including the following:

A total of 604,200 antlerless licenses will be available statewide, up from 592,600 in 2006. The increase in tags available reflects an increase in deer numbers primarily in the Upper Peninsula and northeast Lower Peninsula, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources said.

The MNRC also added 12 new counties, where deer numbers are well above target levels, for the late firearms antlerless season, which runs Dec. 17 through Jan. 1. A list of counties can be viewed on-line at www.michigan.gov/dnr. Most are in the southern Lower Peninsula, where deer numbers remain well above targets.

Finally, youths ages 10 to 16 hunting in a youth season will be allowed to take either an antlered or antlerless deer with a firearm or combination license in the youth firearm season set for Sept. 22-23.

In related news, the MDNR intends to purchase 1,840 acres of central Upper Peninsula land for its winter deer habitat initiative. The parcel is adjacent to existing state lands and was bought from Plum Creek Land Co., of Seattle, Wash. It is to be open to the public after purchase details are completed. The planned purchase is in northern Menominee and northwest Delta counties near Hendricks, Mich. The initiative was launched in 2003 to conserve significant blocks of critical winter range before they are lost to development, fragmentation, or habitat conversion.

So far more than 11,000 acres of range have been purchased in the Upper Peninsula and 1,000 acres in the Lower Peninsula. Restricted fund sources for the program include $1.50 from each deer license and from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund.