Last week the Klamath National Forest took a calculated risk to knowingly harass a pair of Bald eagles and their babies with helicopter logging just 1,500 feet from their nest. Logging this close to the nest occurred continuously for over a week and is expected to continue in this general area.
A Happy Camp resident who has been observing this pair raising their young every year for the past 24 years, alerted EPIC last week. The adult eagles have shown very erratic behavior and have been heard screeching in distress every day logging has occurred. We contacted the ranger, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the wildlife biologist to understand why and by what legal authority allowed the Klamath National Forest to risk killing the nestlings.
Although there were limited operating periods designed and put in place to protect the nestlings, logging was taking place just outside of a Bald Eagle Management Area set up for this particular nest site. Eagles are no longer listed under the Endangered Species Act but are still protected by the Bald Eagle Protection Act, which can bring criminal and civil penalties for any person or organization taking or disturbing them. A violation of the Act can result in a criminal fine of $100,000 ($200,000 for organizations), imprisonment for one year, or both, for a first offense.
Management recommendations from the 2007 Bald Eagle Management Plan does allow some level of disturbance and is very lenient. Because of the public outcry and immediate attention from our organization the Happy Camp Ranger District has a wildlife biologist monitoring the nest during logging activity. The biologist has seen one nestling and the eagles are still tending to their babies.
Disruptive activities in or near eagle foraging areas can interfere with feeding, reducing chances of survival. Young nestlings are particularly vulnerable because they rely on their parents to provide warmth or shade, without which they may die as a result of hypothermia or heat stress. If food delivery schedules are interrupted, the young may not develop healthy plumage, which can affect their survival. Interference with feeding can also result in reduced productivity (number of young successfully fledged). Older nestlings no longer require constant attention from the adults, but they may be startled by loud or intrusive human activities and prematurely jump from the nest before they are able to fly or care for themselves. Once fledged, juveniles range up to 1⁄4 mile from the nest site, often to a site with minimal human activity. During this period, until about six weeks after departure from the nest, the juveniles still depend on the adults to feed them.
Where a human activity agitates or bothers roosting or foraging bald eagles to the degree that causes injury or substantially interferes with breeding, feeding, or sheltering behavior and causes, or is likely to cause, a loss of productivity or nest abandonment, the conduct of the activity constitutes a violation of the Eagle Act’s prohibition against disturbing eagles. If observations show that the logging has resulted in any of these negative affects EPIC will look into pressing charges for violations of the Bald Eagle Protection Act.