Return of the eagle

Posted on Jul 22 2022 in Outdoors

By Jack Spaulding

Driving along the Big Flatrock River in Rush County, I had the exhilarating experience of seeing a fully mature bald eagle soaring across an open field. No mistaking the huge size, dark body and brilliantly white head of our nation’s emblem. Earlier in the year, I was mesmerized as an eagle perched in a large sycamore tree and proceeded to catch its dinner from the shallows of the river. 

My grandfather once owned the land where I watched the eagle fishing. He never had the chance to see this majestic bird. Bald eagles nested in Indiana until the 1890s. They are found mostly along major rivers and other large bodies of water. The loss of habitat, primarily Indiana’s drained wetlands and razed woodlands throughout the latter 1800s, chased them away. Small numbers still wintered in the state from November through March. 

In 1985, the first project of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program was the reintroduction of bald eagles. 

Funded by private donations, 73 eaglets (7-8 weeks old) were obtained from Wisconsin and Alaska from 1985 through 1989 and brought to Indiana. They were placed in a 25-foot nest tower in a secluded bay on Lake Monroe. The birds were monitored and fed daily until they were old enough to fly at 11 to 12 weeks of age. Since then, the eagle population has continued to expand in this continuing comeback story. In 2020, there were over 350 nesting territories in Indiana. 

One of the great historical myths of our country is Benjamin Franklin proposing the national emblem to be a wild turkey! After the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, it tasked Benjamin Franklin — along with John Adams and Thomas Jefferson — with designing a seal to represent the new country. Given the opportunity to choose a national symbol, the Founding Father never 

suggested a turkey. According to his notes, Franklin proposed an image of “Moses standing on the shore, and extending his hand over the sea with the motto ‘Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God.’ ”

While the committee selected the scene from the Book of Exodus for the reverse of the seal, the Continental Congress was not impressed and tabled the concept. It wasn’t until 1782 when the Great Seal of the United States with the bald eagle as its centerpiece was approved.

JACK SPAULDING is a syndicated state outdoors writer and a member of RushShelby Energy. Readers can contact the author by writing to this publication, or by email to Spaulding’s books, “The Best Of Spaulding Outdoors” and “The Coon Hunter And The Kid,” are available from as paperbacks or Kindle downloads.