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The eagles have landed

By: Megan Sanders Journal Correspondent
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Sightings of at least two bald eagles have been reported recently in the greater Auburn area. “I have seen an immature bald eagle in the Coloma area earlier in the year,” said Noah Rucker-Triplett, El Dorado County River Recreation supervisor. Dozens of river rafters also reported seeing a mature bald eagle near Salmon Falls Bridge earlier this month. “They are making a comeback,” Rucker-Triplett said. Bald eagles have also been reported nesting in the higher elevation reservoirs. One site in particular is Slab Creek Reservoir, which is located on the upper South Fork of the American River and is a 4.5-mile long reservoir. Rucker-Triplett said that a nest has been seen about seven miles up. Bald eagles are a part of the food chain cycle and their reappearance is an encouraging sign, said Steve Rothert, the California Field Office Director of American Rivers Conservation. “Bald Eagles play an important role in terms of helping to retain and circulate nutrients in watersheds.” Rothert said. Fish are their primary source of food and Rothert said that the resurfacing of the bald eagles suggests that there is a better supply of fish in the rivers. “American Rivers and our partners are working to bring back salmon and steelhead,” Rothert said. He also said that the eagles’ initial disappearance was symptomatic of a sick ecosystem and their comeback represents an improvement in those ecosystems. There is still a nesting pair up at the Stumpy Meadows Reservoir and many people have reported seeing the eagles, said Bill Prior Sr., founder of Auburn Outdoor Sports. One pair is nesting in one of the tall trees by the water. Stumpy Meadows Reservoir is in the El Dorado National Forest. The birds at Stumpy Meadows have been there since 2005, said Kevin Roberts, wildlife biologist for Sierra Pacific Industries. He said that he monitors the pair on a yearly basis. “I have not been out this year to see if they have been successful,” Roberts said. He said that in the last four years they have produced two young, but last year they only had one in the nest. The young generally stay around until October, even after the parents leave. The young then leave and go somewhere else. Roberts said that the birds like to nest within two miles of a food source because it takes less energy to carry the fish back to the nest. “I have seen them pick out a 14-inch trout,”Roberts said. He said that they catch fish which are close to the surface so that they do not use up all of their energy. We just found a nesting pair at the Hell Hole Reservoir last year, said Claudia Funari, the wildlife biologist at the Georgetown ranger station. “It is surprising to find them there,”Funari said. The lake freezes over in the winter and according to Funari the eagles do not like to nest near a place where they cannot fish. Funari also said that there are a few more pairs that are in the forest. Some are nesting at Jenkinson Reservoir and some are at Union Valley Reservoir. Bald Eagles are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. The acts protect the nests of the birds as well as the birds themselves. Violations come with hefty fines. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act has a fine of $15,000 and is considered a misdemeanor. The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act has a fine of $100,000, imprisonment for a year, or both for the first offense. Roberts said they have had some illegal camping in the area, but it has not disturbed the nesting birds. The Journal’s Megan Sanders can be reached at megans@goldcountrymedia.com or comment at Auburnjournal.com.