Eagles & Bagels: Oahe Downstream

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Farm Forum

Eagles are birds which mate for life and the ritual during which they bond is truly spectacular according to Pat Buscher, District Supervisor at Oahe Downstream Recreation Area. The male and female lock talons while in flight and somersault downward. This “talon grasping” is common to both the bald eagles and golden eagles. The cartwheeling of the pair continues until they release before hitting the ground.

The bald eagle is the only eagle confined to North America and was chosen as the national emblem of the USA on June 20, 1782. Because of extensive recovery activities, including banning of certain pesticides such as DDT in the U.S., the eagle has returned to much of its historical range in North America. The population of bald eagles reached a dismal low of less than 500 breeding pairs in the 1960s to 9789 pairs according to a census done in 2006 by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The census is no longer taken but the estimate of bald eagle pairs far exceeds that number today and may be as high as 150,000 individuals.

The bald eagle and golden eagle are protected under several state and federal laws, including the Bald Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The bald eagle, as a federally listed species, is protected under the Endangered Species Act, as well. The Oahe Downstream Recreation Area north of Ft Pierre on the Tailwaters of the Oahe Dam, provides critical habitat for wintering bald eagles.

The Oahe Downstream Recreation Area is open, but the campgrounds are closed to campers from November 1 to March 31 to protect the roosting habitat of the bald eagles. Don’t disturb or harass wintering eagles, since they are already stressed by the cold and scarcity of food. Scaring eagles away from food may deprive them of the energy they need to maintain their body temperature through a cold, winter night. Unhealthy eagles generally don’t successfully raise young the next spring.

On Feb. 7 there will be the annual Walk In The Park event known as Eagles & Bagels. Once a year, a supervised walking tour is held to view the bald eagles in their roosting areas from a safe distance. An educational program will be held at Oahe Downstream Recreation Area at 9:00 a.m. in the Group Lodge, and then, following the walking tour, there will be a light lunch provided of coffee, juice and bagels. For more information call (605) 223-7722.