Protecting Bald Eagle Nesting Areas at Voyageurs

Photo by Christina Hausman Voyageurs National Park biologists conducted aerial surveys to determine the number and location of bald eagle nesting pairs present in the park. A second occupancy survey will be conducted in mid-May to check on the status of occupied breeding territories and search for late incubating pairs.

The park follows the recommended 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 initiate nesting until late April or early May.

The closed areas are marked with closure signs and buoys. 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 12th 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 five (5) of the park’s 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.

Five the park’s 291 developed day use; camping and houseboat sites are affected by the temporary closures. The closed developed areas are: Kabetogama Lake – Happy Landing Campsite (K-11), Camelback Island Campsite (K-3), Ek Bay Houseboat Site (K-47); Namakan Lake – Sexton Is. Campsite (N-62); and Rainy Lake – Skipper Rock Houseboat Site (R-45).

If more breeding areas are found with actively nesting pairs that fall within conservation management guidelines after this news release is issued, more park areas may be posted closed.

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. Overall, reducing the potential for sustained close human/eagle interactions has been documented to allow greater nesting success of eagles throughout the United States.

Superintendent Mike Ward said, “We appreciate the public’s assistance in protecting the bald eagles of Voyageurs National Park. Reducing the potential adverse impacts at eagle nesting areas ensures that we are successful at sustaining the VNP eagle population”.