CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – There are more than 300 plants and animals in Massachusetts considered endangered or threatened. Since being added to the endangered species list, these three animals are seeing a comeback in the state.
There were 375 nesting pairs of peregrine falcons reported in eastern United States more than 100 years ago but the population decreased after DDT, a pesticide, was more commonly used. The last pair in Massachusetts was in 1955 on Monument Mountain. However, by 1966 no remaining nesting pairs existed on the east coast.
In 1969, the peregrine falcons were added to the Endangered Species Conservation Act and DDT was eventually banned in 1972.
The peregrine falcon population began to restore in the 1980s. Massachusetts saw a return of their first nesting pair in 1987 on the Customs House Tower in Boston. Peregrine falcons now use nesting locations across the state, including two known to MassWildlife in western Massachusetts, one on Monarch Place tower in Springfield and another on the UMass Amherst campus.
The birds were removed from the federal list of endangered species in 1999 and now breed annually in the Commonwealth. They prefer nesting sites alongside cliffs but will also use cell towers, bridges and quarries.
In 2022, there were 43 pairs reported, 25 which had at least a combination of 68 chicks. The peregrine falcon continues to show an upward trend in Massachusetts and across the United States. They are currently listed as special concern as the grow their population.
The use of DDT in Massachusetts in the early 1900s also affected the population of bald eagles. The last bald eagles nest reported in Massachusetts was at Snake Pond in Sandwich in 1905. The eagles were added to the endangered species list in 1986.
The restoration of the bald eagle began in 1982 after eagles were found at the Quabbin Reservoir area. Between 1982 and 1988, 41 young eaglets from Canada were raised in controlled environments near the reservoir then released once they were old enough. The first adult pair released were seen at the Quabbin Reservoir in 1987 and in 1989 successfully fledged three chicks.
From 1990 to 2003, former Massachusetts Environmental Officer Tom Ricardi Sr. helped raise 24 Bald Eagles and released them along the Connecticut River. Since 1989, the number of known territorial pairs of bald eagles has increased to 81. More than 990 eagles have fledged in the Commonwealth over the last 34 years.
In 2022, there were 76 pairs of bald eagles, 24 which have successfully fledged at least 42 chicks.
The Northern Red-bellied Cooter, formerly called the Plymouth Red-bellied Turtle, was listed as an endangered species in 1980 with less than 200 adults left in the state, with nearly 60% of the population existing at one of the 12 ponds.
The species was threatened by human activities including death on roadways and habitat destruction. MassWildlife began a headstart program in 1984 to help juveniles grow into adults. Each year, 100-150 hatchlings from the wild were collected from 30 partners and held in captivity for up to nine months, then released.
Since 1985, 4,810 turtles have been released by MassWildlife in southeastern Massachusetts. From 2013 to 2016, MassWildlife and UMass Amherst studied the program and found that the headstart program increased the survival rate of the turtles by 95 percent. The population has now increased to 400-600 breeding-age turtles across more than 20 ponds.