San Bernardino National Forest to End Annual Bald Eagle Count After 40 Years

A male and female bald eagle perch on branches in Big Bear Lake on Dec. 9, 2017, in this photo released by the San Bernardino National Forest.

A male and female bald eagle perch on branches in Big Bear Lake on Dec. 9, 2017, in this photo released by the San Bernardino National Forest.

After a 40-year run, the San Bernardino National Forest announced Tuesday that it’s ending the annual count of bald eagles living in the area during winter months because the population appears to be stabilized.

Volunteers from the public had joined park officials in recent years to conduct the survey around Silverwood Lake, Lake Perris, Big Bear Lake, Lake Arrowhead and Lake Hemet.

But in the 12 years since the bird was delisted under the Endangered Species Act, the annual census showed its wintering population has remained level in the National Forest area.

The number fluctuated year to year, but the highest counts usually found 12 to 15 eagles, officials said. Last year, 11 birds were spotted, a slight decrease from 15 the year before.

“While it was a difficult decision to end this long-running program, the census is no longer needed from a scientific standpoint,” Mountaintop District Ranger Marc Stamer said in a statement. “We are excited to shift our focus and work with our partners to provide opportunities for the public to continue experiencing the thrill of seeing bald eagles in the forest.”

Organized eagle watching events will still take place this winter at the Silverwood Lake and Lake Perris state recreation areas, according to the Forest Service. Those interested were advised to contact the parks for details.

In Big Bear, the Southern California Mountains Foundation plans to hold eagle watching events during winter 2020.

In the meantime, bald eagle aficionados can get their fix via the Friends of Big Bear Valley‘s live nest webcam.

Last year, viewers watched with anticipation the hatching of two eaglets born to a pair named Jackie and Shadow.

One of the chicks unfortunately succumbed to hypothermia, but the second was seen flying for the first time in July. Bald eagle chicks have a 50% mortality rate within their first year, officials said.

The parents have been seen recently working on their nest in the Fawnskin area of Big Bear Valley, suggesting Jackie could lay eggs again in the coming months.

Because human presence during the nesting season could cause the birds to feel threatened and abandon their nest, the surrounding area will be closed to the public starting Dec. 1. Officials released a map showing the area affected, which includes the Grout Bay Picnic Area and lower section of the Grays Peak Trail.

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