Caltrans Builds Nest

Urban Eagle Sightings

From the Record Searchlight On-line

Department is hoping eagles will make a smooth transition
By Dylan Darling
Thursday, November 29, 2007

Despite concern and questions from the public about a plastic cone displacing a pair of bald eagles from their nest in downtown Redding, state wildlife and transportation officials said Wednesday that it's the best way to prevent the death of any eaglets.

"We went through a lot of consultation over this," said Tom Balkow, senior environmental planner for the state Department of Transportation.

He said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service signed off on the plan to wire a three-foot plastic cone over the eagles' nest to shoo them down river and away from the future Dana-to-Downtown construction site. The cone was put into place last week.

Approval for the plan came in additions made during the summer to environmental documents for the project first drafted in spring 2003, he said.

The eagles moved into the neighborhood, building their nest in 2005 and raising eaglets there in 2006 and last summer. Its high perch, 80 feet up a cottonwood at Turtle Bay Exploration Park, is just a couple hundred feet from where the state Department of Transportation plans to replace the Highway 44 bridge over the Sacramento River.

A flurry of callers Wednesday to the state Fish and Game, as well as the Caltrans office, questioned why the birds weren't left to use their nest again. Many people said if the noise bothers the birds, they'll simply fly away, said Craig Martz, an environmental scientist with the state Department of Fish and Game.

But that's the problem, he said.

If the eagles have eggs or eaglets in the nest and abandon them because of the construction, then the state could be found at fault, he said.

"Everything we are doing is to try to avoid the scenario where the birds would abandon the nest as a result of construction disturbance," Martz said.

While Caltrans has pieced together the start of a new stick nest in a tree about a half-mile downstream of the coned nest -- just south of the South Bonnyview Bridge -- it's unclear whether the eagles will make the move.

"It's the question that no one really knows the answer to," said Bruce Deuel, a recently retired DFG biologist who monitored the eagles near the end of his career.

Although she talked to a number of officials Wednesday who reassured her that the project had the proper approval, Terri Lhuillier still questions whether enough study of the eagles was done before the cone was put in place.

Lhuillier, who walks her dog regularly near the nest, said the eagles already had started building their nest and she is talking to a Fish and Wildlife law enforcement official in Sacramento to see if the cone is in violation of federal laws protecting bald eagles.

The agent asked her if she had any photos of the eagles building their nest this year, but Lhuillier said she hadn't snapped any. She said she didn't realize that she might need the evidence.

"We never imagined this would happen," she said.

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