Bald Eagle Nesting in Voyageurs National Park Leads to Temporary Closures

Nesting bald eagles in Voyageurs National Park have resulted in some temporary access restrictions in the park. USFWS photo.

Some portions of Voyageurs National Park have been placed off-limits, temporarily, to give nesting bald eagles a little peace and quiet while they raise their broods.

Park biologist conducted an aerial survey for eagles early in April and spotted 69 bald eagle nests within Voyageurs' boundaries. Adults were observed incubating at 30 nests compared to 38 in 2009, 29 in 2008, 30 in 2006, 26 in 2004 and 2005, and 20 pairs in 1999, the park reported. Active incubation occurred at 12 park nests on Kabetogama Lake, nine on Namakan Lake, two on Sandpoint Lake, one on Crane Lake and six on Rainy Lake. One non-incubating pair was also observed near a nest on Kabetogama Lake.

Each year since 1992, the park has temporarily closed the land and water areas around active bald eagle nests to visitor use during the raptors' critical nesting periods. The closures have been based on recommendations of bald eagle researchers from across the U.S. to wildlife management agencies. Specific management recommendations from a two-year research study on the effects of watercraft on bald eagles nesting in Voyageurs National Park are being applied for the sixth consecutive year.

Park managers are asking both motorized and non-motorized watercraft users to not travel within 200 meters of bald eagle nesting sites and adjacent land areas during the closure period. Boaters also are encouraged to not stop on the water within the 200 meters near active nesting sites.

The breeding season areas around six of the park’s 31 nest sites occupied by breeding pairs are temporarily closed to campers and other human activities. After the young leave the nest, which usually occurs by the middle of August, these temporarily closed park areas will be reopened for public use.

Three of the park’s 239 developed visitor use camping and houseboat sites are affected by the temporary closures. The closed developed areas are:

Namakan Lake – Sexton Island (N 62) campsite

Rainy Lake – Skipper Rock Island (R45) and Sand Bay South (R25) houseboat sites.

Three undeveloped areas that visitors might use where active breeding pairs are nesting are also closed to human activity and marked with signs or buoys. The closed undeveloped areas are all on Kabetogama Lake –Pine Island South, West Sphunge Island Inlet and West Harris Island Point.

Two nests observed in 2009 were gone this year either because nest trees blew down or nests fell from nest trees. Two new nests not observed last season were seen on Namakan Lake. Thirty-nine nests were not actively being used by adult pairs for incubating eggs.

Individual eagles differ in temperament and tolerance to human and natural activities. Some are easily displaced by human/eagle interactions, whereas others are more accustomed to close interactions with humans. May and June are particularly sensitive periods for nesting eagles.

“Reducing potential impacts to eagle nesting areas ensures that we have greater success in sustaining our eagle population," said Voyageurs Superintendent Mike Ward. "We appreciate the public’s assistance in protecting a majestic icon of Voyageurs National Park and the United States.”