New Jersey residents have helped the recovery of bald eagles and ospreys through a state income-tax check-off, which allows taxpayers to give a portion of their state refunds to fund wildlife protection, according to the Department of Environmental Protection.

The funds helped the two species’ populations reach record highs in the state last year, according to surveys conducted by the Department of Environmental Protection’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program and the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

Volunteers who go out in the field to count and monitor nests are also important in the effort, DEP spokesman Bob Considine said.

The surveys conducted last year found 172 nesting or territorial pairs of bald eagles in New Jersey, up from 161 the previous year. The Delaware Bay region of southern New Jersey is home to most of them.

In addition, 42 new osprey nests were found, for a record high of 515. The Atlantic coast, particularly the wetlands and waterways around Barnegat Bay and Great Egg Harbor, accounted for the majority of nests, DEP said.

“These surveys confirm that New Jersey’s ecologically sensitive coastal environments are healthy and thriving,” Commissioner Bob Martin said. “The steady recoveries of these magnificent birds of prey would not be possible if not for our strong partnership with the Conserve Wildlife Foundation and the work of vigilant volunteer nest watchers who give their time to monitor these nests.”

The Endangered and Nongame Species Program depends in large part on funds provided by the Endangered Wildlife Fund check-off on Line 59 of Form NJ-1040.

Taxpayers are provided the option of contributing $10, $20 or an amount of their choosing toward protection of threatened and endangered species.

The Endangered and Nongame Species Program also works with local conservation groups and recently awarded Conserve Wildlife Matching Grants — funded by sales of Conserve Wildlife license plates — to fund efforts of nonprofit conservation organizations, DEP said.

Division of Fish and Wildlife acting Director Larry Herrighty said the Endangered and Nongame Species Program “protects a truly wide variety of species such as the red knot, piping plover, bobcat, Indiana bat, bog turtle, eastern tiger salamander, timber rattlesnake, wood turtle, even various species of dragonflies and butterflies.”

The recovery of eagles and ospreys is largely the result of a ban on the pesticide DDT, which got into birds’ bodies and damaged their eggshells.

But the state also ran programs to incubate eggs in laboratory settings and monitor nest sites.

In 1982, there was just one bald eagle nest left in the state, in Cumberland County’s Bear Swamp, and that nest repeatedly failed due to DDT. Eagles were brought in from Canada to begin rebuilding New Jersey’s population, according to DEP.

Both eagles and osprey depend primarily upon fish for survival. The DDT ban eliminated a toxin that accumulated in the tissue of fish the birds ate and caused their eggs to fail.

Contact: 609-272-7219 mpost@pressofac.com Twitter @MichelleBPost Facebook.com/EnvironmentSouthJersey

Staff Writer

In my first job after college got paid to read the New York Times and summarize articles for an early online data base. First reporting job was with The Daily Record in Parsippany. I have also worked in nonprofits, and have been with The Press since 1990.

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