WILDLIFE WATCHING -- The bald eagles didn't disappoint the two boat cruises full of dedicated veterans and active military and their families out on Lake Coeur d'Alene on Saturday.
Continue reading for the story from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
A clear, sunny Saturday brought together proud representatives of our country - over 150 military veterans, active duty servicemen and sparkling blue skies filled with our national symbol, the Bald Eagle. It was a combination that brought “Ooh’s” and “Awe’s” throughout the day as veterans and their families took in the annual migration of Bald Eagles on Lake Coeur d’Alene.
For the fourth year in a row, the Bureau of Land Management’s Coeur d’Alene District, in cooperation with Idaho Department of Fish and Game and Lake Coeur d’Alene Cruise Boats, hosted two Veteran’s Eagle Watch Cruises on November 24. Each cruise offered military veterans and active duty military, together with their families, an up-close and personal viewing of America’s national bird as it soars through the skies above the northern Idaho Lake.
Aboard the cruise boats, individuals proudly displayed hats and attire representing all five branches of the military and the various campaigns they had served in. World War II veterans through current military personnel on-leave from Afghanistan were present, including several sub-branches such as the SeaBees and the Women’s Air Corp (WAC). The cruises are offered at no-cost as a way to say “thank you” for their efforts.
During the two-hour cruises, an interpretive program is presented by Watchable Wildlife Coordinator Beth Paragamian and BLM wildlife biologist Carrie Hugo. The program engages both the young and young-at-heart with mounted displays of Bald Eagles, golden eagles and osprey, as well as lots of fun facts about our national bird. Beth and Carrie also call out locations of the birds once the boat reaches the eagle spotting area in Wolf Lodge and Beauty Bays. Over thirty-five Bald Eagles were spotted on the morning cruise and fifty-five on the afternoon boat, delighting participants.
The Bald Eagles are on their annual migration south from Canada for the winter and Lake Coeur d’Alene offers one of their favorite delicacies – kokanee salmon. Kokanee are a land-locked salmon that spawn in the upper east end of the lake in early to mid-December. After their spawning grounds were literally almost washed away by extreme high water levels in 1996, the fisheries have rebounded; each year with higher and higher counts. There appears to be a direct correlation with the annual eagle migration in relation to the increase of kokanee as record numbers of eagles have been counted over the past five years. Already in 2012, initial weekly counts by wildlife biologist Carrie Hugo have exceeded prior years, meaning this season could be another record breaker.