OAK HARBOR — The Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge’s bald eagles are busily sprucing up their nests and frequently seen hauling in new sticks and grasses to prepare for eaglets.

A recent citizen science effort led by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife shows that a total of 707 bald eagle nests were reported in the state in 2020. Ottawa County, Ohio had the most eagle activity with 90 nests, and more than 10% of them were on Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge grounds.

The bald eagle population thrives in the refuge wetlands near Lake Erie. These wetlands provide suitable nesting habitat with plenty of fish, a primary food source for the eagles.

Coronavirus still has the refuge visitor center closed, but Friends of Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge is offering an opportunity to help support wildlife and habitat conservation efforts.

“This time of the year, staff and volunteers are usually hosting Eagle Tours featuring the nine bald eagle nests on Ottawa Refuge’s main complex. Since we can’t do that this year due to coronavirus, we tried to find a fun way to share our love of bald eagles with the community. The Adopt an Eagle program was launched this week as a way to showcase these incredible raptors while raising funds for the wildlife refuge,” said Aimee Arent, Friends executive director.

Those who Adopt an Eagle through Friends of Ottawa NWR have three options for support starting at $25. Eagles can be adopted on the Friends website at https://www.friendsofottawanwr.org/adopt-an- eagle.html.

Those who Adopt an Eagle can receive an emailed or mailed certificate, plush eagle, eagle beak mask, refuge patch and map of Ottawa Refuge’s eagle nests. Eagles may be adopted in memory or in honor of a loved one.

Donations help to support Friends of Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge’s conservation efforts including land restoration, youth services and public access projects. The Adopt an Eagle Program will be available through March 15.

To see the eagles in person, visit Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge.

“More than 360,000 visitors came to the refuge in 2020. As the pandemic continues, people have a need that only nature can fill,” Arent said.

The refuge trails are open daily from sunrise to sunset for hiking, wildlife observation and photography.

The Wildlife Drive will also be open March 20-21 (weather permitting). Drive through 7 miles of woods, prairies, and wetlands at the refuge. Several eagle nests are visible from the trails and Wildlife Drive.

Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, the only national wildlife refuge complex in the state, is located at 14000 W. Ohio 2.

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