Eagles at Lake Coeur d'Alene in record numbers

LAKE COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho (AP) - Bald eagles are mobbing Lake Coeur d'Alene in record numbers this week.

The annual eagle congregation to feast on spawning kokanee in Wolf Lodge Bay swelled to 259 on Friday, The Spokesman-Review reported in Saturday's newspaper. That's up from a count of 136 a week earlier.

The weekly surveys are conducted by Carrie Hugo, a U.S. Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist.

The previous record was 254 eagles in the bay on Dec. 21, 2010. The record previous to that was a mere 154 eagles in 2004.

Hugo counted 215 adults and 44 juveniles Friday, noting that most of the fish-loving birds were hanging out in the Beauty Bay area of Wolf Lodge and the hillside just across the water from Higgens Point.

More eagles could be coming in, since the peak of the congregation traditionally has been just before Christmas.

BLM, Idaho Fish and Game and Audubon Society volunteers are organizing the annual Eagle Watch Week, Dec. 26-Jan. 1, to educate visitors.

Bald eagles have been gathering here for decades to feed on kokanee that swarm into the area to spawn and die.

Lake Coeur d'Alene as well as Lake Pend Oreille are having the biggest kokanee spawning returns in many years, perhaps helping to attract the large number of eagles, said Jim Fredericks, Idaho Fish and Game regional fisheries manager.

The Pend Oreille kokanee make their run earlier than the fish at Coeur d'Alene, and that could be the reason the eagles were slower than normal to show up at Wolf Lodge Bay in November, Fredericks said.

"We had a lot of eagles at Granite Creek (southwest of Hope), where we take the eggs from kokanee for the hatchery," he said. "But I don't know if anyone was counting them."

The lakes are also receiving a record number of human visitors.

Thousands are expected to show up from mid-November through early January to view the eagles at Lake Coeur d'Alene.

The Bureau of Land Management, which administers most of the land, parking areas and trailheads around the bay, offers these suggestions for viewing the eagles: Do not approach the eagles on foot, remember to bring binoculars to enable staying away from the birds, and park off the road and stay in your vehicle while watching nearby birds.