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DEC trying to trap pair of eagles in Alexander so movements can be tracked and studied

By Howard B. Owens

A reader wants to know why she's seen Department of Environmental Conservation agents at a location in the Town of Alexander setting up a trap and watching it.

Kenneth Roblee, a senior wildlife biologist with the DEC's Buffalo office, said the DEC is trying to capture a mating pair of bald eagles that are known to range in the area so radio transmitters can be attached to the birds.

He and a partner have been trying to trap the eagles since early December.

The eagles are of interest to the DEC because their range includes the windmill farms in Orangeville.

"We want to collect information on their home range," Roblee said. "We want to track their movements in relation to the Orangeville wind project. We know the birds are in the area. They are nesting closest to a wind project as any pair of eagles in our region. We want to know how they interact with the turbines, if they approach them at all, and how the turbines might effect their habitat."

It's an important project, he said.

"The information would really help out our eagle management and protection program," Roblee said.

The trap contains bait and hidden netting. The DEC agents watch the trap and if the eagle lands and the timing seems right, little rockets fire and ensnare the eagle in the netting.

They almost got an eagle trapped on the 30th (of January), but it didn't quite work, so the agents are still trying.

The eagles are smart. The agents have to set the trap up in the dark of night. If one wire or rope or anything else isn't positioned as exactly how the eagle would remember it, the eagle will avoid the area. If the agents are spotted, the eagles will avoid the area.

Roblee asked that we only provide a general vicinity of where the DEC is setting up the trap. He said he and his associates try to keep the neighbors informed about what they're doing, but it's best if people stay away from the area because the eagles are so skittish.

The agents are using either a blind or staying in their vehicle while watching the trap.

The trap, by regulation, must be monitored at all times by two agents, and there also must be two agents on hand to handle the eagle if captured.

The DEC officials are being assisted by two experts in eagle capture, a woman from Watertown who has previously captured 14 bald eagles and another who has done a good deal of work over the years with bald eagles.

"It's a waiting game," Roblee said. "It's frustrating, but it's important information to have."

Photo: Provided by Roblee of an eagle with bait at a location.

Chris Miller

Thank you for allowing me to comment on this ~
I have been involved in watching Bald Eagles for the past 4 years, multiple nest with multiple pairs. Would think this is not an ideal time to disturb a mating pair of Bald Eagles. I have been told and observed that to disturb them during this very important process where nest building,mating,and egg laying takes place could result in nest failure and the eagles even leaving the area you want to study. It would be extremely unfortunate if they were able to attach these permanent transmitters, while the eagles had an active nest with eaglets and they were to abandon them.

I understand the importance of the study ~ would provide very useful data in the study of wind turbines. Just the timing of the year is my real concern.....late summer or early fall the juvie eagles will have fledged, that would be a more appropriate time.

Feb 14, 2014, 8:21am Permalink

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