December 20, 2013 in Features

Migrating eagles put on a show

Our Weekly Pick For Families
File photo

The winter gathering of migrating bald eagles peaks in mid-December at Lake Coeur d’Alene.
(Full-size photo)

Bald eagles are congregating at Lake Coeur d’Alene to feast on spawning kokanee in Wolf Lodge Bay.

On Wednesday, there were 129 eagles counted, said Carrie Hugo, a wildlife biologist with the Bureau of Land Management. The same week last year, there were 260.

“The numbers have been a lot lower than the last few years,” she said.

Her personal theory: The eagles are staying at Lake Pend Oreille.

“The kokanee spawn there is getting better each year,” she said.

The eagles are coming from interior Canada, so why wouldn’t they just stop at Pend Oreille if there’s food there, she said.

To see the eagles, families can go to Higgens Point, or exit Interstate 90 at Wolf Lodge and drive down Highway 97, especially to Beauty Bay.

The BLM partners with Idaho Fish and Game to host Eagle Watch Week from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday through Dec. 30 at the Mineral Ridge boat launch and the Mineral Ridge trailhead.

“We have canopies in case the weather is bad and really good telescopes,” Hugo said. Staff from the agencies will be at the sites to answer questions, and they’ll also have mounted stuffed eagles and wing span banners – perfect for pictures with the kids, she said.

If families can’t make the hosted eagle watch times, Hugo said a good time to go is 2:30 to 3 p.m., “right before dark as they’re getting their last fish of the day before they go to roost.”

Or, for early birds, 7:30 a.m. as the eagles are getting their getting their first fish of the day.

Activity is intermittent, she said, so if eagles aren’t in view when you arrive, wait a few minutes.

When you go, bring your binoculars and make sure to stay away from the birds.

Another way to view the eagles is to get out on the lake.

Lake Coeur d’Alene Cruises offers a two-hour tour to view the eagles. A biologist aboard each cruise will provide information about the eagles.

And, the crew will help you find the eagles in the trees, said Marcelle Miller, who works at the Coeur d’Alene Resort and has gone on the cruise a few times.

“We saw 150 eagles one year,” she said.

Kimberly Lusk

Eagle Watch Week: Experts will be at the Mineral Ridge boat launch and the Mineral Ridge trailhead from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday through Dec. 30. Take Highway 97 south from Interstate 90 to either. If the weather is bad, one or both sites may be closed. Call (208) 769-5048 after 9 a.m. each day to check.

Cruises: The boat leaves at 1 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and Thursday through Jan. 1. Cruises board at Independence Point in downtown Coeur d’Alene. Tickets are $22.75 for adults, $20.75 for seniors and $14.75 for children ages 6 to 12. Children 5 and younger are free. Buy tickets at or (208) 765-4000.

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