With a critical point in bald eagle nesting having passed, a handful of campsites in Voyageurs National Park that had been closed due to the birds have reopened for visitors, according to park officials.
The campsites -- four of the park's 239 developed camp and houseboat sites and four undeveloped backcountry sites -- were closed back in May to protect nesting bald eagles.
The four reopened developed areas are: Namakan Lake – Sexton Island (N 62) campsite; Rainy Lake –Sand Bay South (R25) houseboat site, and; Kabetogama Lake – Feedem Island (K39) and Yoder Island (K 37) houseboat sites.
The four reopened undeveloped areas are: Kabetogama Lake - West Sphunge Island Inlet; North Wood Duck Island and West Harris Island Point, and; Rainy Lake - The North Diamond Island undesignated houseboat site.
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. Voyageurs biologists found 74 nests within the park boundary this breeding season. Three nests observed in 2010 were gone either because nest trees blew down or nests fell from nest trees. One new nest was found on Kabetogama, Rainy and Sand Point Lakes for a total of three new nests, according to park officials.
Two non-incubating pairs were observed by nests in known breeding territories on Kabetogama and Rainy Lake. Adults were observed incubating at 36 nests compared to 33 in 2010, 38 in 2009, 30 in 2006, 26 in 2004 and 2005, and 20 pairs in 1999. Incubation occurred at 1 park nest on Crane Lake, 1 on an interior lake, 14 on Kabetogama Lake, 8 on Namakan Lake, 9 on Rainy Lake and 3 on Sandpoint Lake.
Twenty-eight young fledged from 24 park nests: 1 at Crane, 16 at Kabetogama, 5 at Namakan, 3 at Rainy, 2 at Sand Point and 1 on an interior lake. Fifty-seven per cent of all fledged young in the park in 2011 originated from 13 nests on Kabetogama Lake.
Nesting failures occurred at 12 territories: 6 of 9 areas on Rainy, 4 of 8 areas on Namakan, 1 of 14 areas on Kabetogama and 1 of 3 areas on Sand Point Lake. Rainy Lake in particular experienced an unusually high proportion of nest failures in 2011 (67%). By comparison, only 7% of nests failed on Kabetogama Lake. It is unclear why Rainy Lake experienced relatively more nest failures than previous years.
The number of young produced per occupied breeding area for the 2011 breeding population in Voyageurs National Park was 0.74. Sixty-three percent of breeding pairs occupying a breeding area successfully raised at least one fledgling. Breeding success of 70% and productivity of 1.0 are considered characteristics of a healthy bald eagle breeding populations; long-term averages for Voyageurs National Park approach these thresholds.