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Dying Eagles the Symbol of a Dying Earth



Re the Loss of Chum Salmon and Loss of Bald Eagles along the Coast.

In the past 2 days I have done over 12 radio and tv interviews and another 5 for newspapers.  There is great concern over the hundreds of bald eagles dying along the British Columbia coast.  I have devoted a life to eagles so this hits home.  But the real problem is why are these eagles dying?

This tragedy that has been building up since the beginning of November, when it became apparent the entire Alaska and British Columbia runs of chum salmon had experienced catastrophic low returns for spawning. This foreshadowed a lot of migrating eagles and bears attempting to put on fat for winter, not having their normal great resource to do this. 

The first signs of the problem, was the delight of our getting an unprecedented number of eagles and a month early arriving at the Chehalis - Harrison Rivers.  Our Fraser River Bald Eagle Festival was about to get, and did get, record numbers of eagles.  By mid December we had a world record of over 7200 bald eagles in about a two square km  section of the Chehalis - Harrison flats.  A wondrous site.  In fact a biological phenomena like I have never seen before.  But there is a downside.  The why?


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Hancock Sidney Update 5



(Written 2/24/11 at 9:04 a.m. PST)

Wonderful news -- at least a wonderful opportunity

1.      The BC Ministry of Environment has authorized the emergency capture of "Pa" on the basis of his need for emergency treatment.

2.      WildARC, the Rehaber organization in Victoria BC is the legal entity responsible and their experienced raptor handler, Jeff Kreiger, and I will attempt to catch the bird.  We were wishing to establish a fixed feeding station where Pa was conditioned to come but that option was going to take interminable permitting time.

3.      Vet Assistance:  We will have on hand a veterinarian for evaluation and possible treatment.

4.      Banding:   Today I received the final approval as a sub-bander of eagles so I will place a band on Pa so we will know for sure who he is over the years.  Probably no banded bird will have more recorded observations.  The new laws demanded this update, though over the years I have trapped hundreds of eagles. 

5.      Timing:  We were  at first aiming for today, Thursday, but everybody I spoke with, or tried to contact, on Vancouver Island yesterday was desperately digging out from the rare snow storm or not even able to be contacted.  The Island is in chaos, with the storm projected to be worsening as I write this.  Two key players are still not contractible.  Some of the players have previous commitments, so we are planning on Monday for the capture. 

6.      Pa's condition and his vigor seems good and reasonable from our ground crew's constant observations.  Both birds seem to be getting adequate food so the wait, not what I wanted, appears the best and safest option under the circumstances

7.      More on Monday PM.

Thanks for your concerns.

David Hancock

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David Ingram - A bigger than life human has passed.


Room 709   Palliative Care

Entering the room Mitchell and I hugged. I moved toward the Big Man with difficulty. On the way in Jane and Jose had said David had just gone into a coma.  It made last week's visit of Mary and I more significant.  I reached for the frail hand and I got a groan, not one of pain or fright but the long questioning one emerged.  It was the same plaintiff call I remember 12 kilometers north of the Dempster Highway, the night we camped in open bear and ptarmigan country on one of our many northern trips.  I was sleeping in the Suburban between the built in ptarmigan pens and Ingram was tented outside – on the air mattress and warm bags in the freezing night – but exposed to any visitors. His call was clearly questioning the rustling noises beside the vehicle. Was it a flock of ptarmigan or a bear? he tried to ask quietly. It was still light at 12:30 that early morning. He was trying to quietly assess the visitors. I banged the doors from the inside - a flurry of wings confirmed the willow ptarmigan.

We shared many great trips. My wife has had to accept that my favorite traveling companion was the Big Man. He never complained at camping in unusual sites, at me and my dog taking a 20 hour hike while he occupied himself with local wildlife or vistas. I remember returning down a long treeless tundra valley towards our northern Yukon campsite and scoping the landmark mountain, still more than a mile away, to see an animal moving on the summit. Caribou or bear? As I got below the mountain, at camp it became clear that over 1200 feet up the steep rocky-talus slope was Ingram – totally an anti-gravitational phenomena. It boggled the mind how this 350 pound giant had navigated the steep boulder and slippery mountain. My massive friend sat calmly on the peak. An hour and forty minutes later I joined him to watch a sun traverse the northern sky – a glow that straight lined along the horizon. He never asked for, nor would have accepted had I dared offer, any help.

We hardly ever entered a northern Eskimo or Indian village that within moments Ingram had not found the bone yard, their 40 years of discarded vehicles. He was out of the vehicle with wrenches looking for parts to fit my antique 1970 suburban - driven by the common motor and parts for 20 years - the contents of these scrape yards. We often left the north with more weight of parts than my vehicle weighted. The gathering crowd of locals, adults and kids, always enthusiastically assisted him. Out went more complimentary Bald Eagle books! It was unfortunate the First Nations people did not need tax guides!

But perhaps what was always the highlights of the summer month I shared with Ingram were not the wildlife treasures we saw or even caught, but were the gas or village stops. I knew of every bake shop in the north – he every store selling ice cream. Out was Ingram with a free Tax Guide or eagle book for all, a multitude of questions to find out how the Chief hunted caribou, how the store owner survived the dark winter months, or how a nearby kid, trying to corner a ground squirrel in a culvert, got to school. As I explored the wildlife and native cultures, Ingram questioned the rest of the world. No one escaped. Traveling with David was always exciting, inspiring and so so educational. Yes, my favorite traveling companion is gone but not forgotten.

I met David in the early 1970's, was baffled by this man who one moment was performing a belly flop off the high board or the next day writing a White Paper for the government on some complex tax issue. In another moment he was giving out free advice to people who could not afford tax consultation or finishing up some high profile businessman’s tax from – for a pittance of what his work was worth. He was in heaven, if I dare use this word, when questioning or pontificating on radio, TV, the stage, a gathering or on the web. He was at his best giving.

Indeed, David loved front stage. My initial thoughts on this reflection went: I know many famous people who could largely be measured by their greed; many more of less wealth who were also preoccupied by greed driven pursuits; many others simply trudged on through life and ignored the world's plight and callings for a responsible sustainable world. Fortunately we also know a few who championed for good causes. But no one I ever knew was so devoted to giving freely of himself to others than the Big Man – indeed the Big Man. But despite his attraction to ‘front and center’ I never saw him do a put down to any other person. He always honored persons and perspectives. In all those years I never saw him sell a single book – his tax guides or my eagle book. Giving was the Big Man’s thing.

I have known David and Jose from the beginning, and specifically Peter, Mitchell and Jane since all were in the womb. I could not imagine living with David, except for my treasured month for many years traveling the north to strange places. However, I was so very impressed with how David and Jose attended and cared for their kids – who have been there at these trying but important times. When my wife and I got to adopt a daughter over 22 years ago, we agreed to name the Big Man as Godfather.

I treasure my time and friendship with David Ingram as a highlight of my life. Dear traveling companion and friend, I will miss you.

David Hancock

p.s. a retrospective on David Ingram's life is growing over at - please join us.

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Hancock Sidney Update 4


(Written 2/18/11 at 9:05 p.m. PST)

I got home tonight after a long day dealing with a lot of eagle and bird issues -- and to lots of emails -- which I have yet to get to.  I just spoke with Ian and Lynda/elle on the phone and got a great update. 

While there are lots of images and videos of today none suggest the bird is in difficulty.   In the conversations with Karen and Ian it appears, in spite of common worries, that Pa is behaving very normally.  Sure we know he has a cut or whatever on his neck but I have handled a great many raptors in my life and seen incredible healing jobs that occurred on and by wild raptors.

The point I wish to make is that eagles have evolved for 100's of thousands of years sticking their heads into dead and decayed carcasses.  They live on diseased and decaying meat.  They have evolved an ability to fight off invasive diseases.  Pa has been seen eating and processing food so the cut is at least likely only superficial and does not penetrate the crop. If the crop was torn we would by now see food dripping out the crop wound.  This is not the case. 

While I am not wishing to play down Pa's cut, I think in the long run the risk to both Ma and Pa from the grasses in the nest is greater.  Most raptors have little resistance to Aspergillis fungi.  Their nest cup appears to be grass as in last year's Hornby Island nest that claimed the life of their chick.

Therefore from my perspective, since catching the bird is both stressful and potentially disruptive of the breeding season, I favor leaving the bird heal naturally, as it seems to be doing, and only if the bird is in dire straights and failing, should we seek permission to capture it. 

Just as we as humans should not be taking antibiotics we should not be dispersing antibiotics to various of nature's creatures.  I gather all sorts of suggestions are being offered and I very much appreciate all your concerns -- these magnificent creatures deserve better than humans have dished out to them.  Eagles did not seek such greedy competitors or polluters of their waters and food supply.  But Pa seems to be doing fine and I hope he continues along this path.  So many of you are watching carefully as are the members of our fine ground team in the Sidney -- Victoria area.

They will be reporting to me daily and I will try and keep you all informed.

Much thanks.


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Hancock Sidney Update 3


(Written 2/15/11 at 8:23 p.m. PST)

Busy day.  Got a very positive response from MOE suggesting our plans to get confirmation of any potential damage to Pa via video was a great approach.  Ian and Harry were today working at getting the feeding site property permissions and food source lined up.

Then calls this morning from Harry that he had reviewed earlier screen shots (I have not yet seen them) that the day before the neck mark appeared he had seen an intruder at the nest that had an off-cam altercation with Pa.  This was heard and then when Pa next appeared he had the neck mark.  This suggests a possible source of the neck mark -- a wound from an altercation.  This lends some credence to my observations.  Namely that I never could see a line around Pa's neck. I earlier suggested that he had possibly hit a branch while 'attacking a tree' to obtain nesting branches.  The neck mark looks to me far more like a skin tear that dries up and curls the skin and feathers, than a fish line constriction.  However, if Pa was losing ground, his health, it does not matter the cause as much as how we could compensate.  If this mark is from a wound, rather than a restricting fish line, it may well heal and the problem is solved.  Maybe this is happening.

Then later in day Anna and others had captured shots of Pa and Ma at the nest and these showed him in top form  -- but with the neck ring evident.  My joy was seeing his behavior as very robust and normal.  Great postings.

Then tonight, while talking with Karen, she read Lynda's comments only posted moments earlier, on watching the pair while Ian videoed them.  Her point was that both birds were vigorous and appeared healthy.  Wonderful -- the pair seen live and on video and looking very strong and capable.

So I take today as very positive. We should quickly proceed with the feeding site as this will give us some control should the need arise.  We were and are some time from deciding to capture Pa -- this would only be permitted should from good videos confirm that his health was in grave danger.  We are some time from that thankfully but will proceed with continued observations by the keen ground crew -- and with great video captures that equally confirm vigorous health.

Thanks again, ground crew, for the positive reports.

David Hancock


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