The annual count of bald eagle nests in Voyageurs National Park has tallied 75 nests, although only 37 of them were seen with adults incubating eggs, according to park officials.
Park biologists have been counting bald eagle nests for 39 years. This year's count, conducted on April 19, showed a fairly steady number of nests actively being incubated compared to recent years.
According to a park release, last year 30 nests were seen with adult pairs incubating eggs; in 2009 the number was 38, and in 2008 it was 29. The most recent survey detected active incubation at one nest on Crane Lake, 1 on an interior lake, 15 on Kabetogama Lake, 8 on Namakan Lake, 9 on Rainy Lake and 3 on Sandpoint Lake. Two non-incubating pairs were also observed by nests on Kabetogama and Rainy Lake.
Three nests observed in 2010 were gone this year either because nest trees blew down or nests fell from nest trees, the park reported. Three nests not seen last year were seen this year on Kabetogama, Rainy and Sand Point Lakes.
The park is obligated to follow the conservation management actions of the Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle Management Act (16 U.S.C. 668-668c, 1940 as amended). Each year since 1992, the park has temporarily closed the land and water areas around active bald eagle nests to visitor use during their critical nesting periods. Some eagle pairs nest in late March and early April and others may not nest until late April.
The areas are marked with closure signs and buoys. The closures are based on recommendations stemming from extensive bald eagle research from Voyageurs National Park and elsewhere in the United States. Specific management recommendations from a two year research study on the effects of watercraft on bald eagles nesting in Voyageurs National Park (Wildlife Society Bulletin 2002) are also being applied for the seventh consecutive year.
Park managers are asking both motorized and non-motorized watercraft users to not travel within 200 meters of nests where bald eagles are actively nesting during the closure period (early May through mid August). Boaters are also encouraged to not stop on the water within the 200 meters near active nesting sites.
The breeding areas around 8 of the park’s 39 nest sites occupied by breeding pairs are temporarily closed to campers and other human activities. After the young leave the nest, these temporarily closed park areas will be reopened for public use.
Four of the park’s 200 developed day 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 –Sand Bay South (R25) houseboat site.
Kabetogama Lake – Feedem Island (K39) and Yoder Island (K 37) houseboat sites.
Four undeveloped areas that visitors might use where active breeding pairs are nesting are also closed to human activity and marked with signs or buoys. They are West Sphunge Island Inlet, North Wood Duck Island and West Harris Island Point on Kabetogama Lake. The North Diamond Island undesignated houseboat site is closed on Rainy Lake.
People play a very important role in protecting nesting eagles and other birds. 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. April, May and June are particularly sensitive periods for nesting eagles.