Airport eagles' nest will be moved more quickly

Posted: Thursday, November 11, 2010

Due to time restrictions on a permit to remove an eagles' nest, Juneau International Airport will have to act on the permit more quickly than it anticipated.

The airport board discussed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service permit they received last month to allow them to remove the nest. Last month, the board discussed the permit, but did not reach a conclusion since the permit had been received on the day of the meeting. They wanted to conduct a study on where exactly this pair of eagles goes. This study involves GPS tracking on at least one of the birds.

The problem is with the nesting season and the expiration date on the permit - March 31, 2011.

Airport Manager Jeannie Johnson said the Fish and Wildlife Service will not extend the expiration date on the permit, and due to limited staff at that office, they wan the airport to renew all their permits at the same time.

Nick Borchert, a U.S. Department of Agriculture wildlife biologist contracted to the airport, asked to be given authorization to act on the permit now, because waiting until March 2011 will put the airport at risk of possibly having an active eagles' nest for another season. He also said he believes it's important for the airport to not have any lapse in permit coverage.

The board ultimately voted unanimously to move forward with the nest removal and to allow the tree to be limbed from the nest down if necessary.

Borchert said they'd still like to know where the birds travel to better catch them - and they still do plan on catching the birds to track them - but because of the deadline they need to move forward.

"Based on the deadline of the permit, we might run long and end up with a bit of an issue - try to remove an existing nest after it's already active," he said. "It doesn't work that way."

Scott Frickey, with the Fish and Wildlife Service, said eagles start getting active around Feb. 15. Once the eagles nest and lay an egg it becomes off-limits for removal, so they need to watch for when the birds start dragging sticks to a nest site.

Board member Laurie Berg asked if they had permission from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Borchert said they don't currently have a process for this - since Fish and Wildlife just started issuing these permits - so the state department will rely on the federal department.

The board had the most discussion on the fate of the tree. Borchert said it was neither disadvantageous to remove it nor keep it.

Board member Steve Zimmerman wanted to see the tree stay, as well as have as little limbing done as possible.

Borchert and Frickey recommended limb removal from the nest down. Borchert said the nest is 30 feet up on the 100 feet tree.

Borchert said the eagles come to the territory and it's not necessarily tree specific - so just because they've nested at one tree before doesn't mean they will again. But, to discourage them from using the tree again they need to take out the parts of the tree that attract the birds.

Board member Tamara Cook asked if it would look like a palm tree when they were done. Borchert said it would not, but would just clean up the tree - similar to pruning a rose bush.

• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at sarah.day@ juneauempire.com.



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