Eagles nest at airport site may be moved

Posted: Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Juneau International Airport has received a permit allowing them to move an eagles' nest from its site. The airport board is working with environmental entities to conduct a study on potential effects of moving it.

The airport received the permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Wednesday to move the nest. A pair of eagles has made the area around the airport its home, but the airport feels it is necessary to move them because of plane hazards and hazards to the birds.

Airport Manager Jeannie Johnson told the board that herself, board president Jerry Godkin and Nick Borchert - a U.S. Department of Agriculture wildlife biologist the airport has contracted - have met with the Wildlife Hazards Working Group and the FWS.

Johnson said the airport does not have the funds to contribute directly to the study, but has offered the services of Borchert for the study, as well as any data he has assembled regarding the nest. She also said she would provide security badges allowing a reasonable number of people access to the airport for studies. She also has asked Alaska Airlines if they'd be willing to give $10,000 for the effort, but hasn't heard an answer yet.

"It appears that what would make a lot of people happy, and I think would work for the airport, is to be able to track what happens when that nest is removed and what happens to the birds," she said.

Borchert said it seems all the groups involved want a study done that would include GPS tracking of at least one, if not both, of the eagles to determine their patterns. He said the study goals and concepts are still in the infancy stage.

"It seems like the ultimate question is not whether or not to take the nest, but when to take it," Borchert said.

Borchert and Johnson were concerned with the time limitation on the permit. It expires March 31, 2011. That's in the middle of nesting season and would be a bad time to move the nest. They're asking for an extension, however, there also was confusion over another stipulation of the permit, which says the permit remains in effect for up to three years after it expires.

Citizen Laurie Ferguson-Craig said the eagles were there all the time and that she could draw out what exactly their territory is.

"This is their home territory," she said, adding that the only thing she didn't know is where they roost at night. "For the record, I do oppose disturbing the nest of these birds. I think we can find more creative solutions. They hang on to their territory year-round."

Board member Steve Zimmerman, chairman of the Wildlife Hazards Working Group, said a group of nationally-known biologists could not come up with a consensus whether it was better to move the eagles or not. He said they felt it best a study be conducted.

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