Volunteers tally 804 bald eagles at annual Squamish area count 

Numbers up from last year, down over long term

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No records were set but at least the number of bald eagles observed at the annual raptor count in Squamish was up from last year.

More than 50 volunteers came out on Sunday, Jan. 6 to count eagles along the Squamish River, the Mamquam River and a few other eagle-gathering spots in the Squamish Valley. This was the 27th annual count hosted by Thor and Dorte Froslev at the Brackendale Art Gallery. The volunteers braved rain and cold temperatures to gather up the statistics.

A total of 804 eagles were tallied over the course of the day by the civilian counters, who looked for eagles from the top end of Howe Sound to as far north as the Elaho River.

According to Thor Froslev, the count isn't scientific but it gives scientists some solid data to work with dating back to 1986.

He noted the count this year was the highest it has been in the last three years. The number of eagles counted this year still pales compared to the record number of 3,769 eagles counted in 1994.

"I get reports from all kinds of people and they tell me there's more and more eagles in all the little tributaries," said Froslev. "There's more and more salmon in the littler tributaries so they seem to be more spread out but, of course, we are short on salmon."

Froslev said he has one simple solution that he believes will help restore the Squamish and Mamquam salmon populations to historic levels.

"We know that the fish farms are detrimental to the wild salmon," Froslev said of the fish farms operating on west coast. "Being a simple guy — just remove them. That's what I would do."

According to Froslev, eliminating fish farms on the coast will improve salmon returns and that in turn will bring larger eagle numbers back to the Squamish area in the winter months.

First-time volunteer Hazzard Romey is also concerned about salmon returns and the state of the natural world. In the summer months Romey works as a rafting guide then in the winter he switches over to snowmobile guiding. His volunteer job was to float a team of counters down the Squamish River from the Ashlu Bridge to Fisherman's Park in Brackendale.

Romey and his team of four counters spotted 147 eagles. They group had an additional surprise when they saw an elk on the riverbank.

"The world of the day was majestic," said Romey after his team reported their count result at the Brackendale Art Gallery. "The mist in the trees, the quietness, the lichen hanging off the trees, just overall it was so majestic."

Romey said he enjoyed his day so much that if he is scheduled to work on the counting day next year he'll look into taking the day off work so he can volunteer again in 2014.

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