Smaller salmon run blamed for fewer eagles 

A below-average salmon run is being linked to an apparent decrease in the number of bald eagles recorded during the 15 th annual Brackendale Eagle Count, held Jan. 7.

The annual event involves counting all stationary eagles in the 37 kilometre stretch between the Woodfibre Ferry and Ashlu River, including the Cheakamus, Squamish and Mamquam rivers.

The 60 volunteers who took part counted 2,035 eagles, including 1,465 adults and 570 eaglets. Forty trumpeter swans were also included in the visual tally. A number of wolf tracks were also observed.

The 2001 total is considerably down from previous years. Brackendale knocked Haines, Alaska, off its world record perch in 1994, when it counted 3,769 bald eagles. The previous record held by Haines was 3,495. Last year the Brackendale team recorded 2,600 eagles.

Count organiser Thor Froslev said the section between the Ashlu and Elaho could not be included this year because snow made access difficult. However, he said this would not have affected the overall total much.

"We probably lost around 100 birds by not going in there, but it is the salmon that had the greatest impact on our final figures."

Froslev believes an unusually dry fall resulted in less salmon than usual coming upstream to spawn.

"We usually get huge rainfalls here in November which flood the rivers and bring in the salmon, but it just didn’t happen this season."

The next stop for Brackendale’s bald eagles will be the Gulf Islands during March, when the herring run begins. Until then, the birds of prey will be having a free lunch on the salmon that did make it up the rivers and the Brackendale locals will be sniffing eagle perfume – i.e. rotting fish.

According to Froslev, eagles find the six to eight week old dead salmon the tastiest, rather like pate.

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