Eagles vying for a meal of spawning salmon on the Chehalis Flats.

Eagles vying for a meal of spawning salmon on the Chehalis Flats.

Pilots urged to stay off flats

Hancock asks everyone to give eagles room to feed on Harrison area salmon

Eagles and aircraft aren’t a good mix.

A massive education campaign hit the ground at the Chehalis flats over the last year, but now that message needs to get up to local pilots, said ecologist David Hancock.

More than 2,000 eagles have already been counted along the banks of the Harrison River this winter, as the majestic raptors make the long journey here to feed on spawning salmon. Interest in both the eagles and their meals has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years — spurring on the need to educate the public.

Informative signs have been put up to remind everyone to stay off the Chehalis flats (the gravel bars in the shallow ends of the Harrison River), between October and February. Local residents have also been trained to inform people of the importance of leaving the area undisturbed. Treading on the gravel bars could crush the salmon eggs and disturb the natural feeding cycle of the eagles and other wildlife in the area.

And while that education campaign seems to be working, Hancock said, he noticed a troubling number of low-flying aircraft, including hovering helicopters and small aircraft landing on the gravel bars.

“The biggest frustration to preserving the flats and not disturbing the eagles was ironically by airplanes and helicopters who buzzed the sandbars and landed on the flats totally scaring off the eagles and potentially exposing themselves to a collision,” he wrote on his website (www.hancockwildlife.org.)

“We decided that our “Preserve Posters” need to also be placed at airports. I am sure that the pilots simply do not understand the disturbance they cause,” he added.

Hancock is hoping that when the pilots learn what disturbance their flying patterns are causing the eagles, they will change their habits — just as it has been with the kayakers, canoeists and hikers along the ground.

With that trouble aside, Hancock is enthusiastic about this year’s numbers of returning eagles, and salmon.

“The Saturday “at dawn” count revealed 2380 eagles on the Chehalis Flats and Harrison Bay — about twice the number over last year,” he said. “Rain had been sparse the past couple of weeks and the river was very low, revealing lots of salmon carcasses for the eagles to eat. About 260 great majestic trumpeter swans came in and over-nighted on Harrison Bay — always a magnificent addition.”

For those who missed the first few weeks of bird watching, there is still plenty of time, Hancock assured.

“Not only at this season can the birder expect to see at one time 1000 eagles on the Chehalis Flats but during the peak season in mid-December you might see more than 5,000 eagles on the flats and perhaps 10,000 within the 5 -7 kilometer area of the Chehalis-Harrison complex,” he said. “This area houses the largest concentration of bald eagles ever known. The nearby Brackendale/Squamish area and the Chilkat River of Alaska have good concentrations of eagles at different seasons, but none come anywhere near housing the peak eagle numbers that frequent the Chehalis Flats.”

To learn more, visit www.fvbef.ca.

news@ahobserver.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cops converge in a Marshall Road parking lot on Thursday afternoon following a reported police incident. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
Federal offender escapes, gets shot at and is taken back into custody in Abbotsford

Several branches of law enforcement find escapee a short distance from where he fled

Jay Matte (right), president of Pressland Printing in downtown Mission, passes a customer her purchase. Many local businesses say the new mandatory mask order is a positive step to help protect customers and staff alike. / Kevin Mills Photo
Mission businesses, workers say they’re happy with new mask mandate

Most say they’ve had little problem enforcing the of new rules

Jag Deol, owner of Sangam Restaurant and Catering, is collecting non-perishable food items for the St. Joseph's Food Bank at both his restaurant locations in Mission. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Indian restaurant asks for food-bank donations when Missionites pick up take-out orders

Sangam Restaurant and Catering hosting food drive until Dec. 20, will match all donations made

Kenny (left) and Bobby Braich, the Braich family estate’s representatives, will have to pay $676,000 to their former estate lawyer, James Carphin, for legal work dating from December 2004 to October 2010. / Patrick Penner Photo
Former lawyer for Braich Family Estate wins case over unpaid legal debts in B.C. Supreme Court

Braich family recently in dispute with District of Mission over failed development deal

Lefeuvre Road, near Myrtle Avenue, was blocked to traffic on Thursday (Dec. 3) after an abandoned pickup truck was found on fire. Police are investigating to determine if there are any links to a killing an hour earlier in Surrey. (Shane MacKichan photo)
Torched truck found in Abbotsford an hour after killing in Surrey

Police still investigating to determine if incidents are linked

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Another 694 diagnosed with COVID-19 in B.C. Thursday

Three more health care outbreaks, 12 deaths

A demonstrator wears representations of sea lice outside the Fisheries and Oceans Canada offices in downtown Vancouver Sept. 24, demanding more action on the Cohen Commission recommendations to protect wild Fraser River sockeye. (Quinn Bender photo)
First Nations renew call to revoke salmon farm licences

Leadership council implores use of precautionary principle in Discovery Islands

Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps poses for a photo with his parents Amanda Sully and Adam Deschamps in this undated handout photo. Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps was the first baby in Canada to be diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy through Ontario’s newborn screening program. The test was added to the program six days before he was born. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Children’s Hospital Eastern Ontario *MANDATORY CREDIT*
First newborn tested for spinal muscular atrophy in Canada hits new milestones

‘If Aidan had been born any earlier or anywhere else our story would be quite different’

(Pixabay)
Canadians’ mental health has deteriorated with the second wave, study finds

Increased substance use one of the ways people are coping

Surrey Pretrial centre in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Surrey Pretrial hit with human rights complaint over mattress

The inmate who lodged the complaint said he needed a second mattress to help him manage his arthritis

A coal-fired power plant seen through dense smog from the window of an electric bullet train south of Beijing, December 2016. China has continued to increase thermal coal production and power generation, adding to greenhouse gas emissions that are already the world’s largest. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
LNG featured at B.C. energy industry, climate change conference

Hydrogen, nuclear, carbon capture needed for Canada’s net-zero goal

An RCMP officer confers with military rescuers outside their Cormorant helicopter near Bridesville, B.C. Tuesday, Dec. 1. Photo courtesy of RCMP Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey
Good Samaritan helped Kootenay police nab, rescue suspect which drew armed forces response

Midway RCMP said a Good Samaritan helped track the suspect, then brought the arresting officer dry socks

People line up at a COVID-19 assessment centre during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Wednesday, December 2, 2020. Toronto and Peel region continue to be in lockdown. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19 vaccine approval could be days away as pressures mount on health-care system

Many health officials in regions across the country have reported increasing pressures on hospitals

Most Read