Volunteers Needed for Annual Eagle Count

SAN JACINTO – U.S. Forest Service rangers put out a call today for volunteers to assist in the agency’s 35th annual bald eagle count in the San Bernardino and San Jacinto mountains.

The Forest Service’s winter census is slated to begin Dec. 15 and continue on sporadic weekends through the first part of March.

Volunteers are needed to watch for activity in traditional nesting areas around Big Bear Lake, Lake Arrowhead, Lake Hemet Lake Perris and Silverwood Lake.

Volunteers need no prior experience — just warm clothes, a pair of binoculars and an hour to spare for each count, according to agency spokesman John Miller.

He said each eagle count will be preceded by a brief orientation meeting at designated locations.

Eagles generally nest in the lakeside areas from late November to early April, according to the USFS.

Radio tracking devices attached to some birds show that, in a given year, they can migrate from the Inland Empire to as far as north as Alberta, Canada.

”Through this method, the agencies and land managers have learned a lot about which (local) areas are important to eagles and how the populations are doing,” USFS biologist Robin Eliason said. ”But we can’t do it without a lot of volunteers; we need their eyes to help us look.”

Because of hunting and habitat destruction, the American bald eagle was nearly driven to extinction in the last century. The birds were declared endangered in the 1970s.

With some 10,000 breeding pairs identified across the continental United States, they were removed from the Endangered Species List in 2007.

Anyone interested in volunteering for the eagle count at Lake Hemet was asked to call (909) 382-2935; at Lake Perris, (951) 940-5600; Big Bear Lake, or Lakes Arrowhead and Gregory, (909) 382-2832; and Silverwood Lake, (760) 389- 2303.

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