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Forest Service urges people to avoid disturbing nesting critters

Posted: March 12, 2012 - 12:00am

If you prefer your life and limbs to remain for the most part unmolested after your next wilderness outing, the Forest Service recommends not harassing things with talons, claws or beaks.

The bipedal critters venturing in the Tongass National Forest are kindly asked to give a wide berth to the other fauna living along the way. So says the Forest Service.

But what do those stuffy old Smokey the Bear Forest Service folks know about running afoul of birds?

Turns out, a lot.

The Forest Service advised keeping a respectful distance from eagles and other birds during nesting season in a press release issued Friday. Especially early-nesting birds such as eagles, ravens, crows and owls.

Watch for eagles carrying branches and other materials and behaving defensively against other birds, these are “obvious signs that they have begun nesting for the season,” according to the release. This is a particularly vulnerable stage.

Brian Logan, Forest Service Forest Wildlife Biologist for the Tongass, said in the release that the risk of nest abandonment is far greater during the early stages of nesting. Early on, the birds have less invested in their young.

Bald eagles often return to one nest and one mate throughout their two or more decades of life. Disturbances, however, can cause raptors to abandon nests, Logan said. This can cause one or more years of failed reproduction for mated pairs.

All of this disturbance can be avoided by staying at least 100 to 200 yards away from nesting raptors.

Southeast Alaska is home to 13,000 to 26,000 bald eagles, the highest density anywhere, according to the Forest Service release.

This density is due to “the strong ethic of natural resource stewardship that exists in the collective community of Southeast Alaska,” Logan said.

For more information contact Brian Logan, Forest Service Forest Wildlife Biologist at 789-6298 or blogan@fs.fed.us.

• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276 or at russell.stigall@juneauempire.com.

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