NEAH BAY (Sept. 7, 2004) – Bald eagle populations on the Makah Indian reservation are thriving because of a comprehensive resource management plan that protects high-quality habitat.
Each spring, tribal biologists make two helicopter flights across the Makah Tribe’s lands on the northwest tip of the Olympic Peninsula. On the first flight, biologists tally the total number of nests with close attention paid to adults sitting on eggs. The second flight a couple of months later counts the number of young eagles to gauge nesting success.
“This year, we surveyed 26 eagle territories on the reservation,” said Rob McCoy, wildlife biologist for the Makah Tribe. Of the 26 territories, biologists found eagles nesting on 19 nest sites. During the late spring flights, one or two young eagles were seen in 11 of those nests. “The number of nestlings produced at successful territories was 1.6 which is about average for the population out here and the productivity of the area meets the bald eagle recovery goals for the Pacific states region,” said McCoy.
The Makah Tribe has a centuries-old relationship with the bald eagle. Survey flights help protect the bird by providing long-term data on productivity, individual nest and territory use, and identification of new territories. The information also helps the tribe protect bald eagles when planning timber harvests or other activities. The tribe and Washington Department of Wildlife began bald eagle surveys in 1981;in 1999, the tribe took over the surveys of their lands.
Eagles mate for life, although if a partner dies, the survivor will mate again. Females usually produce two eggs, but up to four eggs are occasionally seen. However, usually only one or two survive to fledge from successful nests. Nests are an average of 5 feet in diameter, but can be as large as 10 feet in diameter.
Populations of eagles have rebounded dramatically since 1972 when the pesticide DDT was banned. The bird has also benefited from protection as a “threatened species” under the federal Endangered Species Act. Eagles are slated for removal from the list this year although it will likely remain listed as “sensitive” under state law.
“The majority of high-quality bald eagle habitat here is protected,” said McCoy. The fact that we have 26 territories on 30,000 acres shows how well the Makah timber management plan works.”
For more information contact: Rob McCoy, wildlife biologist, Makah Tribe, (360) 645-3058; Debbie Preston, coastal information officer, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, (360) 374-5501