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Record number eagles counted Lake Couer d'Alene

Bureau of Land Management counted the highest number of bald eagles at Lake Coeur d'Alene since records began 50 years ago.

The Bureau of Land Management recently reported that Lake Coeur d'Alene has seen a record-breaking number of bald eagles, with 409 of the majestic birds counted by wildlife biologist Carrie Hugo on December 20th. This is the highest number of eagles ever recorded in nearly 50 years of data collection.

Hugo, who has been conducting weekly counts of eagles between November and January, was surprised by the high numbers. She found 363 adult eagles and 46 juveniles, making for a total of 409. While her counts are not exact due to the possibility of double-counting, they provide a good index of the eagle population from year to year.

The eagles are drawn to Lake Coeur d'Alene by the abundance of kokanee salmon, which are spawning in large numbers. This year, the population of kokanee is high, but not at a record level. The eagles are attracted to the lake by the prospect of feeding on the salmon, and the high numbers of kokanee this year have led to a corresponding increase in the number of eagles.

The population of kokanee salmon has seen significant fluctuations in recent years, with a low count in 2018 followed by a rebound to roughly 10 million in the most recent estimate. While there are fewer kokanee in Lake Pend Oreille this year, leading to more eagles at Lake Coeur d'Alene, the situation is expected to change in the future due to various factors influencing the abundance of eagles.

The eagle count typically peaks in late December and then quickly decreases as the spawning numbers go down. Hugo encourages people to see the birds of prey while they can, as the best times for viewing are early in the morning and late afternoon. This year, wildlife viewers and photographers have gathered at popular pullouts to observe the eagles, with many noting the unusually high numbers and behavior of the birds.

For example, Carl Crowe, a retired resident of Spokane, observed more eagles than usual this year and was particularly impressed by larger groups of eagles clustered together. He found the experience to be "pretty neat" and enjoyed observing the eagles with his wife, Dennie.

Overall, the record-breaking number of bald eagles at Lake Coeur d'Alene this year has provided an exceptional opportunity for wildlife enthusiasts to witness the majesty of America's national symbol. The high numbers of eagles and their unique behaviors have made for a memorable and educational experience for those who have had the chance to observe them.

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