Up until last year, one of my favorite things about my commute from Manhattan to Bozeman was being able to see a pair of Bald Eagles that had built a nest just north of I-90 between N. 19th Avenue and N. 7th Avenue in Bozeman.

Many people in the Bozeman area enjoyed seeing the eagles every day. The pair occupied the nest site year-round since winter of 2015, when the North Park bald eagle nest was first documented by the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. According to the Montana DNRC, the bald eagle pair successfully fledged young every year from 2016 to 2019, despite nesting within a disturbance zone with multiple active construction and development projects, resulting in at least six known offspring. The pair again was successful in hatching two eagle chicks in the spring of 2020.

In April 2020, the two adult eagles were found dead beneath the nest. Fortunately, two eagle chicks found in the nest were still alive. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks was able to rescue the chicks with assistance from the Montana Raptor Conservation Center in Bozeman. The chicks were eventually placed in another active, local nest.

On the evening of December 29, 2020, the nest was removed by Montana DNRC staff and a contractor. After the nest was removed, it was buried on site. A biologist with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks was present and witnessed the removal.

We reached out to the Montana DNRC to find out why the nest was removed. In a statement, the DNRC spokesman provided the following:

In mid-April of 2020, DNRC was informed by wardens with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks that the two adult birds were found dead underneath the nest, and that two chicks were still alive. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks orchestrated rescue of the chicks with assistance from the Montana Raptor Conservation Center in Bozeman and the eventual placement of the chicks in another active, local nest.

 

After the original adult pair was found dead, other individual bald eagles were observed at the nest in June 2020. DNRC and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff agreed on July 13, 2020, that it would be in the best interest of bald eagles for the existing vacant nest to be removed prior to a new adult pair becoming established at the site.

 

Accomplishing the removal during fall 2020 was considered important to ensure that a new pair of bald eagles would not quickly re-occupy the site and become established. In cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, DNRC applied for an additional incidental take permit to remove the now “inactive” nest in August of 2020; USFWS issued the nest take permit on December 1, 2020. DNRC staff and a contractor removed the nest on the evening of December 29, 2020, and buried it on site.  A biologist with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks was present and witnessed the removal.

 

DNRC’s strong preference was to allow the eagles and nest to remain at this location, as long as they were able to tolerate high levels of human disturbance and thrive.  However, the mortality of the adult pair dramatically changed this perspective for both DNRC and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

You can read the full statement below.

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