Bald Eagles in Voyageurs National Park

May 20, 2008
For Immediate Release
Lee Grim (218) 283-6680

Voyageurs National Park biologists found 57 bald eagle nests within the park boundary on April 29 and 30, 2008 while conducting their 36th consecutive spring aerial survey (1973-2008) to determine the number and location of nesting pairs present. Adult pairs were observed at 30 nests.  Twenty nine of the 30 breeding pairs were actively involved in incubating-compared to 24 in 2007, 30 in 2006, 26 in 2004 and 2005, 24 pairs in 2003, 22 pairs in 2000 and 20 pairs in 1999.

Six nests observed in late summer of 2007 were gone this year either because nest trees blew down or nests fell from nest trees. Three new nests were seen on Rainy, Sand Point and Namakan Lakes. We also observed 27 of the 57 nests that were are not actively being used by adults for incubating eggs.

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.  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 VNP (Wildlife Society Bulletin 2002) are being applied for the fourth consecutive year. We are asking both motorized and non-motorized watercraft users not approach on the water within 200 meters of bald eagle nesting sites and adjacent land areas during the closure period. Boaters are encouraged to not stop on the water within the 200 meters near active nesting sites.

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 eagles 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. Eagles may still be incubating eggs until late May, and if flushed off the nest for too long a period, the eggs will become cold and the embryos can die.  Newly hatched eaglets are unable to regulate their body temperatures and need almost constant attention from an adult to protect them from cold winds and rain, or hot sunshine. If the adults are continuously threatened, they may abandon their protective nesting efforts. After eaglets can regulate their own body temperatures they are not as vulnerable if the parent is not present.

This breeding season areas around 12 of the park’s 29 active nesting 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.

Four of the park’s 235 developed visitor use sites are affected by the temporary closures. The closed developed areas are:

 Kabetogama Lake-Yoder Island (K37) houseboat site

 Namakan Lake –Hamilton Island East (N11) campsite

 Rainy Lake-Skipper Rock Island (R45) and Sand Bay South (R25) houseboat sites

Eight undeveloped areas that visitors might use where active breeding pairs are nesting are also closed to human activity and marked with signs.  The closed undeveloped areas are:

 Kabetogama Lake –East Northland Island, North Wood Duck Island Beach, Pine Island South, Richie Island, West Sphunge Island Inlet, and West Zollner Island

 Rainy Lake- North Diamond Island and Red Rock Island

There has been a steady increase in active nesting pairs in Voyageurs National Park during the past 36 breeding seasons.  That trend along with an increase in the number of young fledged annually in the park is good news for both the eagles and the park’s visitors.

Acting Superintendent Raoul Lufbery said, “Overall, we believe that by reducing the adverse potential of human/eagle interactions around our active bald eagle nesting sites we have allowed greater nesting success of park eagles. At the same time we have increased the access to more eagles by our visitors.  Our specific management strategy appears to be working well at Voyageurs. Our management goal is to help ensure the continued reproductive success and sustainability of the park’s population of bald eagles, our nation’s symbol.”

This entry was posted in Crane Lake Area. Bookmark the permalink.