weather icon Mostly Cloudy

Eagle eyes: Annual count shows species in good health

On a cold and windy Jan. 12 morning, seven boats set out to different parts of lakes Mead and Mohave. The people on each boat were there for one reason: to survey the bald eagle population.

Ross Haley, a wildlife biologist for the National Park Service, has been counting the eagle population for 20 years at an area of Lake Mead called the Overton Arm.

“I have been doing this for a long time, and the Overton Arm usually has the highest eagle population on the lake,” Haley said.

The survey is part of a national effort by the National Park Service and wildlife preservation groups to keep tabs on the bald eagle population, which was an endangered species until 2007.

Haley said the increase in the number of bald eagles since they were taken off the endangered list is nothing short of a victory.

This year, the eagle population at the lake was lower than last year’s count, with 76 eagles spotted, 51 of them labeled as juvenile and 25 as adults.

In 2016, the survey tallied 113 bald eagles. Before the final numbers were gathered, Haley said that a lower count would not worry him.

“A low count wouldn’t concern me because the survey is a national effort,” he said. “Lake Mead is such a small part of the count that low numbers here would not mean that the numbers are low everywhere.”

The bald eagles migrate to Lake Mead to escape the colder winter months of the Pacific Northwest.

The surveying process is simple, with people on each boat recording every sighting of an eagle or another bird of prey such as a falcon or hawk.

Sam Luke, the volunteer recorder on Haley’s ship and a first-timer to the eagle survey, said he joined the effort as a way to get out on the water and help the park’s conservation work.

“Being a part of the survey seemed like a really interesting experience, so I am happy to be out here,” Luke said. “It is nice to do our part making sure the bald eagle population is still safe.”

Haley acknowledged that this method of counting eagles is not mistake-free.

“Obviously counting them by hand could cause some mistakes,” he said. “We could miss some or recount some, but like I said before, this is a national effort and I have faith in those numbers.”

While the bald eagle is no longer an endangered bird, Haley said people should still protect the species because, not too long ago, the pesticide DDT was killing the population. DDT is now banned in the United States.

“It is still vulnerable to pesticides and that sort of thing,” Haley said. “The bald eagle is a harbinger of our environmental health.”

Haley extrapolated that a healthy eagle population can mean cleaner water and air.

Contact reporter Max Lancaster at mlancaster @bouldercityreview.com or at 702-586-9401. Follow him on Twitter @MLancasterBCR.

By the numbers

During their annual count at Lake Mead and Lake Mohave, volunteers spotted:

76 bald eagles

2 golden eagles

2 unidentified eagles

14 peregrin falcons

20 redtail hawks

11 northern harriers

1 osprey

3 unidentified raptors

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Study: Solar panels improve desert life

The solar panels in the Eldorado Valley outside of Boulder City could help desert plants and wildlife because of how they direct rainwater into the ground, according to researchers with Las Vegas’ Desert Research Institute.

Vaccine clinics scheduled

Some Boulder City residents will be able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine for free locally, starting Monday, Jan. 25.

Vece joins race for council seat

With five days remaining until the filing period for those wishing to run for a seat on the City Council officially opens, the pool of candidates continues to grow.

Planning begins for students to return to campuses

Local leaders are unsure how they will implement new guidance from the school district about reopening campuses to students and teachers.

Vaccine questions answered

Boulder City Hospital adheres to federal, state and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for the distribution and administration of the COVID-19 vaccine. Due to the limited quantity available of the newly developed vaccine, a tiered system has been implemented and identifies vulnerable populations to be immunized.

Salary range, guidelines set for new city attorney, manager

The search for the next city manager and city attorney is a little more defined as City Council recently approved the salary range and compensation package for each position.

Purpose of proposed ballot question contested

City Council is divided on whether safety or growth is the purpose of a proposed ballot question about airport capital improvement projects and have yet to decide about moving forward with it.

Three announce plans to seek council seat

Candidate filing for Boulder City’s 2021 municipal election starts in less than two weeks and three residents have already announced their intention to run for city office.

Temporary staff check for COVID compliance

Boulder City is using temporary part-time code enforcement officers to help ensure that local businesses are complying with current health and safety guidelines for the pandemic.

Two council seats up for election

The 2021 municipal election will see residents voting to fill two seats on City Council as well as offer guidance on some community issues.