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Bald eagle count in TNF pleases experts

John HartLast year, Penn Valley wildlife rehabilitator Mike Furtado and volunteers exercised this female bald eagle on "tethered flights" in a field until it was strong enough to be re-released into the wild.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

The eagles have landed in Tahoe National Forest.

Fifteen of them.



That’s how many bald eagles were counted in January by TNF employees as part of a long-term, statewide study.




Launched in the mid-1980s, the study uses volunteers and government workers to recheck the same spots each winter to see how many eagles migrate to California from the frozen reaches of Alaska and Canada.

Like the proverbial canary in the coal mine, if this “baseline” number drops sharply, researchers will know something’s wrong.

“It’s an index to see if there’s any sort of trends. Any given year’s results aren’t significant. It’s more a long-term thing,” said Janet Linthicum, wildlife biologist for the Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group, which runs the study.

Nowadays, the eagle news is good.

“The are doing quite well. The migrating population seems to remain pretty stable,” Linthicum said.

“There’s actually talk about removing the bald eagle from the (federal) endangered species list,” he added.

TNF employees spotted the largest concentration of bald eagles near the Truckee River, a total of nine.

“It’s a record, as far as I know, along the Truckee River,” said Tina Mark, acting forest biologist.

Other bald eagle sightings are: one at the Little Truckee River, one at Lake Valley Reservoir south of Yuba Pass, two at Bullards Bar Reservoir, one on the North Yuba River and one in the Sierra Valley near Sierraville.

Of all the areas looked at by the survey, the Klamath Basin near the Oregon border has the most wintering eagles, Linthicum said. Close to 900 eagles were sighted there in 1992, she said.

In the Klamath Basin, “there’s a lot of waterfowl, and (eagles) prey on waterfowl, especially sick and wounded” individuals, Linthicum said.


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