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FWS Increases Take Limits for Eagle Permits

February 8, 2022

On February 1, 2022, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) published a notice in the Federal Register announcing that FWS has increased take limits for permits to take bald eagles. These take limits establish a ceiling on the aggregate amount of incidental take of bald eagles that FWS can authorize through permits in its Eagle Management Units (EMUs). In the notice, FWS announced its decision to increase take limits in four of its six EMUs following a periodic review of biological data and reassessment of take limits. FWS increased the collective take limits across all four EMUs from 3,731 to 15,832.

In 2016, FWS had revised its regulations governing permitting of eagle incidental take and, at the same time, completed a biological status assessment for both bald and golden eagles and a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS). Through this effort, the FWS established six EMUs: the Atlantic Flyway, Mississippi Flyway, Central Flyway, Pacific Flyway north of 40° north latitude, Pacific Flyway south of 40° north latitude, and Alaska. FWS then set take limits in each EMU. FWS based these take limits on appropriate take rates and the 20th quantile of the EMU population size estimate, both of which FWS identified through its 2016 rulemaking and review. FWS also committed to update population size estimates and update take rates and limits every six years.

Because six years had passed since FWS’s 2016 biological status assessment and PEIS, FWS reviewed biological data and reassessed the take limits. The updated eagle take limits resulted from increased population estimates and an increased take rate. In 2016, FWS had relied on 2009 data to estimate that the bald eagle population in the U.S. was 143,000. In 2019, however, FWS estimated that the bald eagle populations in four EMUs increased to 316,708. Similarly, in 2016, FWS had determined that a take rate of 0.06 was consistent with its management objective for bald eagles. In 2022, FWS updated its estimate of the appropriate take rate to 0.09.

These updates resulted in notable increases to the bald eagle take limits:

Bald Eagle Management Unit

2009 Population Size (20th quantile)

2009 Take Limit

2019 Population Size (20th quantile)

New Take Limits

Atlantic Flyway





Mississippi Flyway





Central Flyway





Pacific Flyway North










FWS observed that, in 2020, the actual permitted bald eagle take was 490 and stated that “the higher updated take limits will not in themselves lead to increased take.”

FWS explained that it did not modify take limits for the Alaska and Pacific Flyway South bald eagle EMUs because FWS did not complete surveys in these EMUs.

FWS’s notice follows FWS’s publication of an advance notice of proposed rulemaking seeking comment on potential approaches for further expediting and simplifying the permit process authorizing incidental take of eagles. FWS anticipates publishing a proposed rule later this year.