Annual Poll Shows Eagles Down in the Dumps
Monday, January 07 2008 @ 02:56 PM EST
Contributed by: Anonymous
Special to The Globe and Mail
January 7, 2008
BRACKENDALE -- The Squamish municipal dump is the favourite vacation spot for wintering bald eagles this season, according to the results of the 2008 Brackendale Eagle Count, which took place yesterday in this eagle-worshipping town, 65 kilometres north of Vancouver.
Sixty volunteer counters who fanned out to 21 sites in the region found just 893 juvenile and mature bald eagles among the cottonwood trees and along the many creeks and rivers, down from 1,757 in 2007. This was the lowest number in the survey since 1991.
Four volunteers found 222 eagles at the dump, compared with just 26 in the same location last year.
But despite the unsettling sight of these majestic raptors picking among Squamish's trash, the results didn't kick up as big a stink as one might have expected."It's all about the salmon. The salmon didn't come, so the eagles didn't come either," said organizer Thor Froslev from Brackendale Art Gallery, which hosts a Bald Eagle Festival every January.
The count, the first in British Columbia, was started by Mr. Froslev in 1986 and has spawned similar bald eagle polls all over North America. It is closed to the public and results are used to determine the general health of the local eco-system.
"When there is not enough fish ... the eagles will find seagulls or other animals. We even saw a pair chowing down on a barn owl on the Cheakamus River last week," Mr. Froslev said.
"It's not surprising they end up in the one place where they are bound to find easy food sources [the dump]."
The annual chum salmon run, which peaks along the Squamish River and its tributaries in mid-November, decreased by up to 95 per cent, according to the Squamish-Lillooet Sport Fishing Advisory Committee.
The currently running coho salmon return, which Mr. Froslev said was higher in numbers than the chum, was nevertheless lower than historic norms.
Despite this, Mr. Froslev said no starving or sick eagles had been found and brought to the eagle hospital he opened at the art gallery last year.
He said a significant drop in salmon can be tolerated by the eco-system every couple of years.
"But what we want to know is what the return for salmon will be like next year," Mr. Froslev said.
"It's the ongoing cycle that is important".