Recreational users at Boca disturbing eagle habitat
Two bald eagles which nest year-round at Boca Reservoir may be threatened by recreational users who are ignoring Boca Special Closure boundaries, said U.S. Forest Service officials.
According to Jenny Wilson, a fish and wildlife biologist with the Truckee Ranger District, people have been ignoring signs, tearing them down, and vandalizing the fencing at the closure’s southwestern side to get into the area. In many cases, people have driven their vehicles around the fences to get in.
“The sign was pulled right out of the ground,” said Wilson. “People have all of the rest of the lake. We just closed this cove – a small area of the lake.”
The closure, which was issued two years ago, is in effect from Jan. 1 to Aug. 31 of each calendar year – bald eagle nesting season. Under the Endangered Species Act, bald eagles are considered threatened species. The closure helps protect nesting bald eagles so they can breed without human disturbance. Noise from motors and people or even the close presence of a quiet hiker or angler can disrupt the eagles’ breeding behavior, said Forest Service officials.
“We discovered those eagles in Boca in 1993,” said Wilson. “This is the first year they haven’t had young. We can’t say this is a direct cause of people going in there, but it is definitely a factor.”
Wilson explained that young bald eagles depend on feeding even when they first learn to fly. If bald eagles are disrupted during feeding, they will drop their food to concentrate on scaring the disturbance by circling.
“Basically they get really upset. So we’re trying to keep all of this disturbance away from them. We don’t feel like we’re asking a lot. (People) can go to other areas of the lake and it seems people don’t want to do this,” said Wilson.
This year, one of the closure signs was ripped right out of the ground. Apparently some of the buoys marking the closure from the water were also removed.
Wilson said bald eagles are well on their way to being taken off of the threatened species list, but that it takes a cooperative effort for people to help respect the closure regulations for this to happen.
“We want them to be taken off the list because that means they’re reproducing and doing well,” she said.
The only two local year-round bald eagle nests are at Boca and Stampede Reservoir.
The Forest Service is considering putting surveillance cameras in the area next year. Any person who enters the closure area on foot or use any type of motorized vehicle during nesting season can face a fine of up to $5,000 and/or imprisonment of up to six months, according to the closure order.
If anyone sees someone violating the closure order, they should contact Gary Barnett, law enforcement officer with the Truckee Ranger District at 587-3558 or 477-7237.
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