Eagles, salmon, cycle of life celebrated in Squamish 

When winter comes to Squamish, the salmon come to spawn and the bald eagles come to feast on the salmon. And so the cycle of life continues.

There are celebrations to mark this annual phenomenon, like the Return of the Salmon Festival in Squamish Nov. 18, but there are also serious concerns raised each year about the safety of the bald eagle.

This is why the Eagle Watch Volunteer Interpreter Program is calling on more volunteers to help them protect the bald eagle this winter.

In 1994, almost 4,000 eagles flew into Squamish from places as far off as Montana and Alaska. Curious visitors soon descended, trying to catch a glimpse of the eagles as they fed off the salmon. But by trying to satisfy their own curiosity, the visitors were in fact disturbing the eagles, to such an extent that they were not able to feed properly.

"The eagles come to feast on the salmon without having to expend too much energy," said Nicola Kozakiewicz, the project co-ordinator of the Eagle Watch Volunteer Interpreter Program. "(But) the numbers of people were such that they were disturbing the eagles when they fed."

Kozakiewicz goes on to explain that if the eagles cannot get their fill of salmon in the morning – an average eagle eats about 1 lb. every day – then they will not be able to keep warm at night and might not be able to make it through a cold winter.

To solve this problem the Eagle Watch Program was created in 1995 to teach visitors about their distressing impact on the bald eagle. And every year they look for more volunteers to help them achieve this end.

Volunteers encourage visitors to look at the eagles through spotting scopes on the dyke rather than disturbing them on the banks of the Squamish River.

"It's a real community stewardship project," said Kozakiewicz. "We're always looking for more volunteers."

Located on Government Road in Squamish, Eagle Run is now an interactive shelter with murals and artwork explaining the life cycle of the eagle.

At the site there are spotting scopes and binoculars where visitors can see the birds feeding on the salmon as well as perching in the nearby cottonwoods.

Each weekend from Nov. 24 to Feb. 1 (and midweek between Christmas and New Year's) there will be two volunteers from the community to inform the public.

An orientation and educational slideshow for new volunteers will be held at the Best Western Sea to Sky hotel on Nov. 24 from 9 a.m. to noon. At 1 p.m. the session will move outdoors to Eagle Run.

But before the eagles get settled in Squamish, the salmon have to get here first.

This year’s Return of the Salmon Festival is on Sunday, Nov. 18 at the Sunwolf Outdoor Centre on the Squamish Valley Road. Attendance is free and the salmon barbecue will be under $6. The festival begins at 11 a.m.

There will be food, arts and crafts all associated with the return of the salmon.

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