Symbol of America Is One Town's Headache

ByABC News

HOMER, Alaska, Feb. 18, 2006 — -- This week, the government announced the bald eagle, America's symbol of freedom, will be removed from the list of endangered species -- but there is one place in America where bald eagles rule and some humans are beginning to feel endangered.

Homer, Alaska, is a place where the majestic symbol of America can be found perched on movie theatres, cars, light posts and dozens at a time on rooftops. They sometimes collide with traffic and are accused of stealing pets out of yards.

Ed Bailey, a retired federal biologist, said the bald eagles have become a town menace, and that it's gotten so bad some people even have resorted to shooting them.

"I've interviewed several people that said, 'I've handled my problem after my chicken coop was raided several times by eagles,' " Bailey said. "I said, 'How's that?' [and they said] 'Well, with a twenty-two.' "

It is an opinion 82-year-old Jean Keene, known around here as the "Eagle Lady," does not share. The eagles come to see her, perhaps because she feeds the nearly 15-pound birds raw fish every day during the winter. She has seen the population grow from about five, 20 years ago, to a daily average of 150 bald eagles, and sometimes hundreds more.

Unlike the rest of the country, where the bald eagle nearly went extinct, they have always been abundant in Alaska, but it's been nothing like it is now.

"This place is unique in the world," said Greg Baer, a freelance photographer. "We have access to eagles, an amazing access you don't get anywhere else."

If you've seen close up photographs of bald eagles with fish in their beaks, odds are they were taken in the Homer area.

But critics say it comes with a heavy price, that it is dangerous to have so many predators in one small place. So, in a controversial move, the city council has banned eagle feeding -- at least the kind that has allowed even amateur photographers to get fantastic close-up action.

But the town's beloved "Eagle Lady" has been made exempt for now.

"If they are fed at a safe place and the right kind of food, I see nothing wrong with it," she says.

That means these beautiful birds won't be going anywhere. They can still call Homer "home."

ABC News' Neal Karlinsky reported this story for "World News Tonight".

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