Brackendale’s official bald eagle counts are the lowest they’ve
been in more than 15 years.
On Sunday dozens of trained volunteers took part in the eagle
count, hampered a little by the fat flakes of snow falling. Their official
tally was 893 eagles. That’s almost half last year’s count of more than 1,700
and less than a quarter of the 1994 count of more than 3,700, for which Brackendale
earned the bragging rights as “World Eagle Capital.”
“It was a foregone conclusion,” said eagle count coordinator
He wasn’t surprised at the low numbers because the Coho salmon
run was far below its normal levels. The eagles come to Brackendale because of
the Coho salmon.
Edith Tobe, a biologist and director of the Squamish River
Watershed Society, admits it’s difficult to pinpoint why the salmon levels were
so low this year.
The Coho are on a four-year cycle and this is the last year of
that cycle, which could explain the lower numbers.
“I don’t personally think it’s an unusual trend,” she said.
And while there have been several outside factors influencing
the local waterways, it’s hard to measure how they may have affected the Coho
run, and by extension, the eagle count.
The Cheakamus River spill in August 2005, which saw 50,000
litres of a toxic chemical pour into the river from a derailed train, is not
related at all the low runs, said Tobe.
But other factors, such as global warming and the fish farms up
and down the coast, could be playing some kind of a role.
Still, she is not concerned with this one stand out year, but
if the population stays low for the second year in a row that would raise the
“I have no cause for concern at the present,” said Tobe.
The eagles gather every year from mid-November to feast on the
shores of the rivers and creeks in the Squamish Valley. That’s where the adult
Chum and Coho salmon come to die after spawning. The eagles stay in the valley
Froslev said it’s still a site to behold despite the lower than
“Nine hundred eagles is lots of eagles,” he said.
The Brackendale Art Gallery is home of the Winter Eagle
The Brackendale Eagle Reserve is 550 hectares of eagle habitat,
which is off limits to logging, mining and other development.
Trained volunteers are on hand to field questions and to
promote responsible eagle viewing.