Woods Canyon Lake closure goes into effect to protect breeding bald eagles

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May 7th, 2009

PHOENIX —  It’s breeding time again for Arizona’s bald eagles, and outdoor recreationists are being asked to help protect an important breeding area at Woods Canyon Lake on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests by honoring a closure surrounding the nest area.

Visitors to the lake and the Rocky Point Picnic Area will be asked to not disturb the eagles during the nesting and fledging times which should occur throughout the summer. Users of the hiking trail adjacent to that portion of the lake will be re-routed around the nest to provide more security for the birds. Boaters are asked to not enter the buoy closure or stop near the nesting area on the southwest shore of the lake.

“Even though the bald eagle is doing well in Arizona, they still require the public’s help to reproduce successfully and flourish in the state,” says Kenneth Jacobson, head of the Arizona Game and Fish Department Bald Eagle Management Program. “Human activity near active bald eagle nests can cause a breeding pair to leave its eggs uncovered, leading to a failed breeding attempt. It can take only 30 minutes for a breeding attempt to fail.”

Anglers are also being asked to help bald eagles by placing discarded fishing line (monofilament) in one of the three monofilament recycling bins that are in place at Woods Canyon Lake. In 2009, biologists have already removed fishing line or tackle from two bald eagle nests, affecting four nestlings. Fishing line can entangle young nestlings and adult birds and cause death.

Nestwatchers from the Arizona Bald Eagle Nestwatch Program will observe the nest from dawn to dusk, collecting data about the eagles’ behavior, educating the public, and notifying rescuers of any life-threatening situations for the birds.

The closure is effective immediately until approximately September.

“The Rocky Point Picnic Area will remain open as usual,” says Beth Dykstra, recreation staff on the Black Mesa Ranger District, “but we will be posting some signs directing foot traffic around the nest area. Even though part of the shoreline will not be accessible, we are hopeful that our visitors to the lake this summer will enjoy the splendid opportunity to learn about these magnificent birds.”

The bald eagle was federally listed as an endangered species in 1978. Nationally, the birds recovered enough to be removed from the list in 2007, but they remain listed as a threatened species in south-central Arizona.

Arizona bald eagles begin rebuilding nests starting in December in preparation for laying eggs. Bald eagles in the northern parts of the state begin their breeding activities later than those in the southern portions of the state. During the breeding season, land and wildlife management agencies enact the seasonal breeding area closures. Bald eagles nest, forage and roost at the rivers and lakes that have become some of Arizona’s most popular recreation spots, and this time of year can be challenging for the birds.

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