Bald eagle breeding season kicks off, leads to restrictions

PHOENIX — Arizona’s bald eagle breeding season is on the horizon and multiple public land and water areas will be closed to protect the majestic animals and ensure even more young eagles take to the skies this spring. Local closure areas include parts of Lake Pleasant, the Salt and Verde Rivers and the Tonto National Forest.

 

Each year as part of its highly successful program to conserve and protect bald eagles in the state, the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) asks outdoor recreationists, aircraft pilots, drone operators and motorized paragliders to do their part not to disturb the state’s 87 eagle breeding areas.

 

“December is a sensitive time for bald eagles because they’re often busy preparing their nests for eggs,” said Kenneth “Tuk” Jacobson, AZGFD bald eagle management coordinator. “The birds often nest, forage and roost at rivers and lakes that are also popular recreation spots. Because of that, it’s important for us all to do what we can to protect the birds to ensure their populations statewide continue to flourish. That success wouldn’t be possible without the cooperation of outdoor recreationists who respect the closures during breeding season.”

 

During the 2018 breeding season, a record 87 young hatched and 70 reached the important milestone of their first flight, known as fledging.

 

To further protect the eagles, various land and wildlife management agencies will also close areas around breeding locations, including near popular recreation sites.

 

Pilots are reminded to maintain the FAA-recommended 2,000-foot above ground level advisory when flying over bald eagle habitat, while drones and paragliders are asked to avoid the areas completely. Bald eagles are sensitive to even short durations of low-flying aircraft activity near their nests and just a few minutes of disturbance can lead to a nesting failure.

 

STATEWIDE AIRSPACE ADVISORY

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has established a 2000-foot above ground level (AGL) advisory along the Salt and Verde river drainages and lakes such as Lake Pleasant, Roosevelt Lake and Alamo Lake. These areas are designated on the Phoenix Sectional Aeronautical map and also include Alamo Lake, Ashurst Lake, Greer Lakes, Crescent Lake, Luna Lake, Show Low Lake, Chevelon Canyon Lake, Woods Canyon Lake, Lake Mary, Dogtown Reservoir, White Horse Lake and the Bill Williams National Wildlife Refuge. Special brochures for pilots regarding this advisory can be obtained by calling the Arizona Department of Transportation or the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Terrestrial Wildlife branch at (623) 236-7506.

 

SEASONAL CLOSURES

Verde River

  • Verde River at the Needle Rock Recreation area is closed to foot and vehicle entry on the east and portions of the west side of the river from Dec. 1 to June 30. Floating through is allowed, but no stopping in the river or landing on east side of river is allowed. Contact Tonto National Forest, Cave Creek Ranger District, (480) 595-3300.
  • A closure for the Verde River below Sycamore Canyon Wilderness is not planned this year unless the eagle pair resumes nesting. Verde River below Sycamore Canyon Wilderness may be closed to foot and vehicle entry from Dec. 1 to June 15. Floating through is allowed, but contact the Coconino National Forest, Sedona Ranger District office for more information at (928) 282-4119.
  • Verde River near Chasm Creek is closed to foot and vehicle entry from Dec. 1 to June 30. Floating through is allowed. Contact Prescott National Forest Verde Ranger District (928) 567-4121.
  • Verde River near Cold Water Creek, allows watercraft to float through but no stopping on the river or landing is allowed Dec. 1 to June 30. Contact Prescott National Forest Verde Ranger District at (928) 567-4121
  • Verde River upstream of the East Verde confluence is closed to vehicle and foot entry from Dec. 1 to June 30. Floating through is allowed, but no stopping in the river or landing is allowed. Contact Tonto National Forest Cave Creek Ranger District at (480) 595-3300.
  • Verde River near Mule Shoe Bend allows watercraft to float through but no stopping in the river or landing is allowed from Dec. 1 to June 30. Contact Tonto National Forest Cave Creek Ranger District at (480) 595-3300.
  • Verde River below Horseshoe Dam is closed to vehicle or foot entry on the southwest side of the river from Dec. 1 to June 30. Floating through is allowed, but no stopping in the river or landing on the southwest side of the river is allowed. Contact Tonto National Forest Cave Creek Ranger District at (480) 595-3300.
  • Verde River below Bartlett Dam is closed to foot or vehicle entry from Dec. 1 to June 30. Floating through is allowed, but no stopping in the river or landing is allowed. Contact Tonto National Forest Cave Creek Ranger District at (480)595-3300.
  • Verde River at the Needle Rock Recreation area is closed to foot and vehicle entry on the east side of the river from Dec. 1 to June 30. Floating through is allowed, but no stopping in the river or landing on east side of river is allowed. A small area on the west side may also be closed depending on nesting locations. Contact Tonto National Forest Cave Creek Ranger District at (480) 595-3300.
  • Tonto Creek
  • Tonto Creek from Gisela to 76 Ranch is closed to vehicle, foot entry, and floating through from Dec. 1 to June 30. Contact Tonto National Forest Tonto Basin Ranger District at (928) 467-3200.
  • Tonto Creek inlet to Roosevelt Lake is closed to vehicle and foot entry within 1,000 feet of the nest on land and to watercraft within 300 feet on water from Dec. 1 to June 30. Contact Tonto National Forest Tonto Basin Ranger District at (928) 467-3200.

 

Lake Pleasant

  • No vehicle, watercraft or foot entry is allowed into the Lower Agua Fria Arm from Dec. 15 to June 15. Contact Maricopa County Parks and Recreation at (928) 501-1710.

 

TIPS FOR VISITING EAGLE AREAS

If you are visiting bald eagle country, an advance call to the local land management agency, such as the local U.S. Forest Service district office, or the Arizona Game and Fish Department may help to plan your trip to avoid disturbing bald eagles. By following these simple guidelines, we can all help ensure that our living wildlife legacy will last for generations to come:

  • Enjoy bald eagles from outside the closures, which are marked with signs and/or buoys. Watch from a distance using a spotting scope, binoculars or telephoto camera lens.
  • Anyone approached by a nestwatcher and asked to cease an activity or leave a closed area should comply. A few good places to see bald eagles without disturbing them (during December and January) are at Lake Mary and Mormon Lake near Flagstaff, on the Verde Canyon Train in Clarkdale or Roosevelt Lake.
  • Bald eagles protecting an active nest will let you know if you are too close. If a bald eagle is vocalizing and circling the area frantically, you are too close and need to leave the area quickly. Bald eagles incubating eggs or brooding small young should never be off the nest for more than 15 minutes.
  • Help from anglers is especially needed. Fishing line and tackle have killed two nestlings and been found in two-thirds of all bald eagle nests in the state. Every year biologists remove these lethal hazards from nests and/or entangled nestlings. Discard of any fishing line properly in specially-marked recycling containers or at fishing stores. Also, use fresh line that isn’t old and brittle. Use the correct test line for the fish you are trying to catch. Also, do not cut the line when an undesirable fish is caught and return it to the water with the hook and line attached.
  • Duck hunters should scout out their hunting area to ensure that bald eagles are not nesting nearby.

 

You can help bald eagle research and recovery efforts by reporting any harassment or shooting of bald eagles. Call the Arizona Game and Fish Operation Game Thief Hotline at (800) 352-0700 or U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Law Enforcement at (480) 967-7900. For a complete list of closures for the Arizona Bald Eagle breeding season visit azgfd.com or call 602-942-3000.