WILDLIFE WATCHING -- Kokanee are spawning and dying in North Idaho's two largest lakes and bald eagles are loving it.
Dozens of eagles are congregating at Granite Creek and in the Bayview shoreline area to take advantage of revived kokanee fisheries in Lake Pend Oreille.
Lake Coeur d'Alene is better known for the eagles that congregate from November into January to feast on the kokanee -- land-locked sockeye salmon -- spawning in Wolf Lodge Bay.
The number of eagles varies from year to year, with 44 adult (white-headed) eagles and 10 immatures counted today in a weekly survey by Carrie Hugo, U.S. Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist. She tallied a total of 40 eagles last week.
This week's count is well above the 11 adult bald eagles counted in the Wolf Lodge Bay area at this time in 2013, but far below the 100 eagles counted during this week in 2012.
The eagles provide a popular wildlife-viewing attraction with numbers of birds and viewers increasing into December.
- A record 273 bald eagles was counted at Lake Coeur d'Alene on Dec. 29, 2011.
Eagle numbers have been lower in recent years, probably owing to more eagles attracted to revived kokanee fisheries in Lake Pend Oreille, where the salmon population crashed in the 1990s.
Good eagle viewing points around Wolf Lodge Bay include Higgens Point and turnouts off Highway 97, including Mineral Ridge.
Idaho State Patrol officers warn eagle viewers that traffic rules must be followed and vehicles must be parked properly off the highway.
- See this blog post for tips on CdA eagle viewing areas.