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Feature - The winter home of the eagles

Brackendale Eagle Reserve is a product of volunteers' efforts



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"The problem was that there were a lot of people with guns who needed quick money around the end of World War II.

"For the hunters to collect their bounty they had to bring in the talons and it was recorded. According to those records, about 100,000 talons were delivered during this period."

With these historical setbacks in mind, and a world record count to bargain with, in the early 1990s the Brackendale community began a push to have their eagle sanctuary officially recognized by the provincial government.

In 1996 their wish was recognized and the Brackendale Eagle Reserve is now in the final stages of being approved as a Class A wildlife sanctuary.

The Class A rating means the area will be protected from activities such as logging and mining or any other development that could affect the eagles' habitat.

Brian Clark, from the Ministry of Water, Land and Air protection, said the eagle volunteers in Brackendale deserve a lot of credit for their efforts.

"A Class A park signifies the highest level of provincial park. The final documents are drafted and written and just waiting for final review," Clark said.

"I think there's nothing to be worried about long-term because they're (the eagles) a healthy population.

"But they're the sort of animal that could be badly effected by human action; action such as logging their cottonwood habitat would affect things.

"When this (park) is approved the agreement will outline that the area is for the purpose of nesting and feeding for eagles only, and anything else that hinders that purpose will not be allowed."

Clark added that the eagle data provided by the volunteers was used by many environmental agencies.

"We provide the park but the volunteers do the rest," he said.

"The eagle count provides very useful data for us and is used internationally as well.

"The year-to-year trends is not so useful, but the long-term trends help us compare populations over all areas."

There are only a few areas outside of Alaska where the bald eagles congregate and, according to Clark, Brackendale is one of the most significant sites in the world.

"South of Alaska this area is very big and important because they don't have too many of these birds left in the States, and in Brackendale they're very easy to spot.

"It's a credit to the volunteers who have raised the profile of the eagle reserve."

The other incentive for volunteers in Brackendale is tourism, because bird watching is a treasured pastime by many North Americans and Europeans alike.