Bald Eagle Nesting Areas Protected in Voyageurs National Park

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Date: May 11, 2011
Contact: Lee Grim, 218-283-6680

Voyageurs National Park biologists conducted the 39th consecutive spring aerial bald eagle nesting survey (1973-2011) to determine the number and location of nesting bald eagle pairs on April 19, 2011. Seventy-five (75) nests were surveyed. Adult pairs were observed incubating at 37 nests compared to 30 in 2010, 38 in 2009, 29 in 2008, 30 in 2006, 26 in 2004 and 2005, and 20 pairs in 1999. Active incubation occurred at 1 park nest on Crane Lake, 1 on an interior lake, 15 on Kabetogama Lake, 8 on Namakan Lake, 9 on Rainy Lake and 3 on Sandpoint Lake. Two non-incubating pairs were also observed by nests on Kabetogama and Rainy Lake.

Three nests observed in 2010 were gone this year either because nest trees blew down or nests fell from nest trees. Three new nests not observed last season were seen on Kabetogama, Rainy and Sand Point Lakes. Thirty eight nests were not actively being used by adult pairs for incubating eggs.

The park is obligated to follow the conservation management actions of the Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle Management Act (16 U.S.C. 668-668c, 1940 as amended). Each year since 1992, the park has temporarily closed the land and water areas around active bald eagle nests to visitor use during their critical nesting periods. Some eagle pairs nest in late March and early April and others may not nest until late April.

The areas are marked with closure signs and buoys. The closures are based on recommendations stemming from extensive bald eagle research from Voyageurs National Park and elsewhere in the United States. Specific management recommendations from a two year research study on the effects of watercraft on bald eagles nesting in Voyageurs National Park (Wildlife Society Bulletin 2002) are also being applied for the seventh consecutive year.

Park managers are asking both motorized and non-motorized watercraft users to not travel within 200 meters of nests where bald eagles are actively nesting during the closure period (early May through mid August). Boaters are also encouraged to not stop on the water within the 200 meters near active nesting sites.

The breeding areas around 8 of the park's 39 nest sites occupied by breeding pairs are temporarily closed to campers and other human activities. After the young leave the nest, these temporarily closed park areas will be reopened for public use.

Four of the park's 200 developed day use, camping, and houseboat sites are affected by the temporary closures. The closed developed areas are:  

  • Namakan Lake – Sexton Island (N 62) campsite
  • Rainy Lake –Sand Bay South (R25) houseboat site.
  • Kabetogama Lake – Feedem Island (K39) and Yoder Island (K 37) houseboat sites.

Four undeveloped areas that visitors might use where active breeding pairs are nesting are also closed to human activity and marked with signs or buoys.  They are West Sphunge Island Inlet, North Wood Duck Island and West Harris Island Point on Kabetogama Lake. The North Diamond Island undesignated houseboat site is closed on Rainy Lake.

People play a very important role in protecting nesting eagles and other birds. Individual eagles differ in temperament and tolerance to human and natural activities. Some are easily displaced by human/eagle interactions, whereas others are more accustomed to close interactions with humans. April, May and June are particularly sensitive periods for nesting eagles.

Superintendent Mike Ward said, "We appreciate the public's assistance in protecting the bald eagles of Voyageurs National Park. Reducing the potential adverse impacts at eagle nesting areas ensures that we are successful at sustaining the VNP eagle population."

Last updated: April 10, 2015

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Voyageurs National Park Headquarters
360 Hwy 11 East

International Falls, MN 56649


(218) 283-6600

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