Seasonal closures have started at 21 sites along waterways and lakes in Arizona to protect bald eagle nests.
Locally, the closures include the east side of Lynx Lake just southeast of Prescott from Dec. 1 to June 30; and several sites along the Middle Verde River during the same time period.
"Bald eagles continue to do well in Arizona, but they are sensitive to human activity during the breeding season and it can take as little as 30 minutes of leaving the eggs uncovered for a breeding attempt to fail," said Kenneth Jacobson, head of the Arizona Game and Fish Department Bald Eagle Management Program. "Cooperation from outdoor recreationists during the breeding season has been a major reason that the population continues to grow."
The bald eagle was federally listed as an endangered species in 1978. Nationally, the birds recovered enough to be removed from the list in 2007.
In December, Arizona bald eagles begin rebuilding nests in preparation for laying eggs. During this time, land and wildlife management agencies enact the seasonal breeding area closures. Bald eagles nest, forage and roost at the rivers and lakes that have become some of Arizona's most popular recreation spots, and this time of year can be challenging for the birds.
Game and Fish's bald eagle management efforts are supported by the Heritage Fund, an initiative voters approved 20 years ago to provide for wildlife education and conservation through Arizona lottery ticket sales.
Enjoy bald eagles from outside the closures, especially during critical nesting times (December to June). These areas are posted with signs and/or buoys, and many have daily nest-watch monitors. Anyone approached by a nest watcher and asked to cease an activity or leave a closed area should comply.
A few good places to see bald eagles without disturbing them (during December and January) are at Lake Mary and Mormon Lake near Flagstaff, or on the Verde River Canyon Train in Clarkdale.
Bald eagles protecting an active nest will let you know if you are too close. If a bald eagle is vocalizing and circling the area frantically, you are too close and need to leave the area quickly. Bald eagles incubating eggs or brooding small young should never be off the nest for more than 15 minutes.
Help from anglers is especially needed. Monofilament and tackle has killed two nestlings and has been found in two-thirds of all bald eagle nests in the state. Every year, Game and Fish officials remove this potentially lethal material from nests and/or entangled nestlings. Ospreys, shorebirds, waterfowl and songbirds also succumb to this litter.
Do not discard any type of monofilament along rivers and lakes, but recycle it at fishing stores. Keep your monofilament fresh; do not use old brittle line. Make sure to use the correct test line for the fish you are trying to catch. Also, do not cut the line when an undesirable fish is caught and return it to the water with the hook and line attached.
The public can help bald eagle research and recovery efforts by reporting any harassment or shooting of bald eagles. Call the Arizona Game and Fish Operation Game Thief Hotline at 1-800-352-0700 or U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Law Enforcement at (480) 967-7900.