January 5, 2015 8:22 am

Bald Eagle count in Squamish draws concern

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Ever year, dozens of people gather by the Squamish River for a glimpse of the majestic bald eagle. Between the months of November and January, Squamish plays host to one of North America’s largest congregations of the wintering bald eagles, but this year there’s been a noticeable drop in the number of bald eagles.

“We’re in trouble,” said the organizer of the 29th annual bald eagle count, Thor Froslev.

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In total, 324 bald eagles had been spotted by the afternoon, a particularly low number according to eagle experts. Last year’s count was 1,617 and the record highest number was set in 1994 with 3,769. The average annual count is 1,500.

In terms of factors influencing how many eagles are counted, weather plays a big role.

Spotting the eagles at today’s bald eagle count in Brackendale proved to be difficult thanks in part to the snowy, wintry conditions.

“It’s really snowing terribly. You can’t even count the eagles on the other side of the river” added Froslev.

Weather aside, biologist Anna Smith, believes there is another factor driving the numbers down.

“The salmon run was not very good this year. So the number of eagles that come up to this area depends on those salmon. If there’s not the salmon to be able to feed on, they’re going to fly elsewhere to look for that nutrition,” she says.

The annual return of the spawning salmon signals the return of the eagles to Squamish, so with a declining salmon population, bird watchers say there is reason to be concerned.

© 2015 Shaw Media

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