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Bald eagle numbers far short of last year’s Lake CdA gathering, so far

A bald eagle feasts on a kokanee at Lake Coeur d'Alene. (Carlene D. Hardt)
A bald eagle feasts on a kokanee at Lake Coeur d'Alene. (Carlene D. Hardt)

WILDLIFE WATCHING -- Bald eagles are way short of their historical mark for showing up to feed on spawning kokanee at Lake Coeur d'Alene.

Carrie Hugo, U.S. Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist, counted only 11 adult bald eagles in the Wolf Lodge Bay area today.  That's up from two eagles counted during her weekly survey last week, but down from 100 eagles counted during this week last year.

The eagles have provided a popular wildlife-viewing attraction as the birds are lured to the northeast corner of the lake from mid-November into January to feast on the spawning kokanee that stack up in the bay.

Birders and biologists have been scratching their heads, wondering if the revival of kokanee at Lake Pend Oreille is detouring eagles that normally would be flocking to Lake CdA by now?

Reader Eric Brady has a different observation that spawns another theory:

I have observed a much higher number of eagles on the Clearwater River near Lewiston compared to prior years and it appears that the eagles are feeding on dying fall Chinook, which returned in post-dam-era record numbers to the Snake River and its tributaries this  year.    On one gravel bar last weekend, I saw 5 eagles within 20 feet of each other.    On quite a few occasions this fall, I have seen 2-3 eagles feeding in close proximity near the waterline.   In prior years, it has not been uncommon to see eagles flying overhead when fishing on the Clearwater, but rarely have I seen an eagle on a gravel bar – let alone in numbers.    

Perhaps there are fewer eagles at Lake CDA as they are feasting on the record run of fall Chinook?

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Rich Landers
Rich Landers joined The Spokesman-Review in 1977. He is the Outdoors editor for the Sports Department writing and photographing stories about hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, conservation, nature and wildlife and related topics.

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