Friday, March 04 2011 @ 11:28 AM EST
Contributed by: karenbills
Bears also impacted
AT RISK: A pair of bald eagles perch on a tree near English Bay, Vancouver, in March 2009. A weak chum salmon run has left British Columbian eagles struggling for survival. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
As a result of a weak, late-season chum salmon run, thousands of bald eagles that normally feed on salmon in rivers from Alaska to British Columbia are starving and forced to scavenge landfills to survive.
The birds depend on late fall runs of chum, the last salmon species to spawn each year, to carry them through the winter. But the 2010 chum run was much lower than usual, and not enough to sustain
through periods of scarcity.
, biologist, author, and founder of the Hancock Wildlife Foundation, says the eagles have few alternative food sources this time of year and are in the most desperate situation he’s seen in over 40 years of studying west coast wildlife.
“The alternatives, if the salmon aren’t there, are not very good for the eagles. There’s just nothing else, so they move into the local refuse and landfills. On one day, we had 1,387 eagles at the landfill—they were in desperation,” he says.
About 7,200 bald eagles that descended near Chehalis River in the southwest corner of British Columbia quickly exhausted the salmon supply, Hancock says. Just 10 days later
population was reduced to 348 as they dispersed to find other food sources.
He says many eagles have resorted to “stealing” food from gulls and other birds at landfills in greater Vancouver, affecting these species as well. Compounding the problem is an especially cold winter that puts additional stress on their fight to survive.
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