AR: Activity around nest jeopardizes safety of eagles, public

BENTON – Increased human activity near a nest in Saline County
is jeopardizing the safety of a pair of bald eagles and nestlings.
Not only is the well-being of the eagles at risk, but the public’s
safety is in jeopardy because motorists are parking along the
narrow highway.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, along with the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service, have instructed the public to stop parking
along Arkansas Highway 229 in Saline County to view the eagle nest.
The USFWS originally had a 330-foot no disturbance zone around the
nest. Since the nesting bald eagles continue to exhibit signs of
agitation and disturbance caused by human activity, USFWS officials
have extended the buffer zone to 660 feet from the nest.

The roadside where the public is parking to see the eagles is
almost 320 feet from the nest and well within the extended
no-disturbance zone designated by federal bald eagle management
guidelines.

To minimize disturbance to the nesting bald eagles, the USFWS
and AGFC have requested that the Arkansas State Highway and
Transportation Department post “No Parking” signs along Highway 229
to prevent motorists from stopping along the highway.

Bald eagles are protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle
Protection Act, which provides criminal penalties of up to a
$100,000, imprisonment for one year or both for a first offense for
persons who pursue, molest or disturb bald eagles. Disturbance is
defined as agitating or bothering bald eagles to the degree that
there is a decrease in productivity or nest abandonment, by
substantially interfering with normal breeding, feeding or
sheltering behavior.

AGFC wildlife officers have observed the nesting pair of bald
eagles flushing from the nest while giving distress cries in
response to vehicles stopping along the highway. AHTD regulations
prohibit parking along the highway and on the highway shoulder
except in cases of emergency.

During the nestling period, increased human activity around the
nest increases the likelihood of nest abandonment and vulnerability
of nestlings to the weather. This could result in missed feedings
that could affect the eagles’ survival or may prematurely flush
nestlings from the nest, which could kill them. Human activity that
causes any of these responses and leads to injury, a decrease in
productivity or nest abandonment, could be considered disturbance
under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. Bald eagles are
unlikely to be disturbed by routine use of roads, homes or other
facilities where such use was present before a bald eagle pair
nested.

 

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