Wolf Lodge Bay is alive with bald eagles that have migrated to the northeast corner of Lake Coeur d’Alene to feed on spawned out and dying kokanee.
U.S. Bureau of Land Management staffers counted 66 bald eagles hanging out in the trees around the bay during a weekly survey on Wednesday. That’s virtually the same number of eagles counted during the same week last year.
A record 156 eagles were counted in December 2004, when the highest counts were still occurring the week before Christmas.
However, the annual eagle congregation is dwindling and dispersing sooner compared with previous years, prompting the agency and volunteers to move up the dates for the annual Eagle Watch activities.
Wildlife biologists and volunteers with spotting scopes and eagle information will be stationed around the bay on Dec. 19-21 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Access the area from Interstate 90 east of Coeur d’Alene by taking the Wolf Lodge exit. Look for educational information at Mineral Ridge Boat Launch and Mineral Ridge Trailhead.
Another Eagle Watch week is set for the traditional dates of Dec. 26-29, but the trend in recent years has been for fewer eagles to be in the area by late December.
Since 1994, when BLM began surveying the people as well as the eagles that come to Wolf Lodge Bay in November and December, more than 50,000 visitors have come to watch eagles during the Eagle Watch weeks.
Although 70 percent of the eagle watchers drive less than three hours to make the visit, the other 30 percent have come from far-flung places, including all 50 states, two U.S. territories and 36 foreign countries, BLM data show.
Many of these out-of-area people are visiting local family and friends. Many are exchange students or tourists on skiing vacations.