A pair of bald eagles visible in Van Wert County. (Photo/Van Wert Times-Bulletin)

An established eagle population continues to grow and make its presence known in Van Wert County, as well as Adams and Jay counties in Indiana. Reports continue to grow of eagles in the Willshire area, especially in the trees surrounding the quarry along Ohio 49 north of Willshire.

Lifelong Willshire resident Clarence Hamrick, who owns numerous plots of ground in western Van Wert County, said that he continues to spot more eagles all the time across areas of his ground. Becky’s Restaurant in Willshire is often the site of discussion of eagle appearances around the community, with eagles often seen soaring over the restaurant and the Willshire area.

Terri Lehman, who heads up the “Friends of the Limberlost” group in the tri-county area, said that eagles were once a part of the habitat of the local area, including the Black Swamp region of northwest Ohio and the “sister” Limberlost Swamp on southern Adams County, Indiana.

However, the species started to vanish in the early 1900s when farmers started to clear the swamp areas and forests for agricultural and farming purposes in the area. Much of the eagle population at the time migrated to the north into Wisconsin and the forested areas of Wisconsin and Michigan.

About 40-50 years ago, agricultural experts and those in the Department of Natural Resources discussed and initiated a plan to see what would happen if they were to attempt to transfer some eagle population into Indiana and the local surrounding area. Carefully, eagles were transferred into the swamp and more forest-populated areas of eastern Indiana and western Ohio. Slowly more sightings were reported.

Within 10 years, there were over 300 flourishing nests spotted from the expanding populations. In the Willshire area, eagles have not only been established for their beauty, they have also assisted in cleaning up animal fatalities along the roadsides and in fields. “It’s not unusual anymore to see eagles when I ride around and check out my properties,” said Hamrick. “You see them flying over the area and gathering around the pond north of town (Willshire).”

Most recently, eagles have begun to appear in mass sightings. In a tree north of Geneva, Indiana, close to the Lake of the Woods, a tree was photographed filled with 37 eagles. Those living in those areas are seeing more and more multi-populated sightings in the trees close to the lakes. Lehman said that eagles often marry for life and grow families, thus multiplying the population around the area. Quite often eagles are spotted by “two’s” (husband and wife) establishing their living quarters. In nests where mother eagles are seen caring for their young, it is not unusual to see the father roosting one or two trees away looking over and protecting the situation.

In addition to the local area, more and more nests are showing up in Paulding County. One of the largest was located for a while near the intersection of Ohio 500 and State Line Road. “We have no reason to believe that this population growth is not going to continue or expand,” said Lehman. “Just remember that it is a federal crime to interfere in any way with our national bird.”