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Outdoor recreationists, pilots and drone operators are asked to avoid bald eagle nest areas during breeding season

Posted in: News Media
Dec 10, 2015
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Each year as part of its highly successful program to manage and conserve bald eagles in the state, the Arizona Game and Fish Department asks outdoor recreationists, aircraft pilots, drone operators and motorized paragliders to help this magnificent bird in Arizona. These groups are asked to honor the closure of 23 areas across the state that are important bald eagle breeding sites.

Various land and wildlife management agencies close the breeding areas during the birds’ breeding season to protect the state’s 59 breeding pairs of bald eagles. Some of the closure areas are located near popular recreation sites.

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“Cooperation from outdoor recreationists has been a major reason that the bald eagle population continues to grow, and now we’re working to create more awareness among aircraft pilots, drone operators and motorized paragliders. Pilots should maintain the FAA-recommended 2,000-foot above ground level advisory when flying over bald eagle habitat, and drones and paragliders are asked to avoid the areas completely,” says Kenneth Jacobson, head of the Arizona Game and Fish Department Bald Eagle Management Program.

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.

In December, Arizona bald eagles begin rebuilding nests in preparation for laying eggs. The birds nest, forage and roost at the rivers and lakes that have become some of Arizona’s most popular recreation spots, and this time of year can be challenging for the birds.

Game and Fish’s bald eagle management efforts are supported by the Heritage Fund, an initiative passed more than 20 years ago to provide for wildlife education and conservation through Arizona lottery ticket sales.

AIRSPACE ADVISORY
Statewide
  • Statewide – The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has established a 2000-foot above ground level (AGL) advisory along the Salt and Verde river drainages. When traveling in these drainages or near riparian habitat statewide, aircraft should maintain a minimum of 2000-foot AGL to ensure compliance with state and federal law.

SEASONAL CLOSURES

Verde River
  • A closure for the Verde River below Sycamore Canyon Wilderness is not planned this year unless the eagle pair resumes nesting. Contact Coconino National Forest, Sedona Ranger District for updates, (928) 282-4119.
  • Verde River near Chasm Creek is closed to foot and vehicle entry from Dec. 1 to June 15. 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, (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 permitted. Contact Tonto National Forest, Cave Creek Ranger District, (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, (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, (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 permitted. Contact Tonto National Forest, Cave Creek Ranger District, (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, (480) 595-3300. 
Tonto Creek
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  • 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 (928) 467-3200.
  • Tonto Creek inlet to Roosevelt Lake is closed to vehicle and foot entry within 1000 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 (928) 467-3200.
Salt River
  • Salt River from Horseshoe Bend to Redmond Flat 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, Globe Ranger District, (928) 402-6200.
  • Salt River near Meddler Point is closed to vehicle and foot entry within 1000 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 (928) 467-3200.
  • Salt River below Stewart Mountain Dam is closed to vehicle or foot entry on the south side of the river from Dec. 1 to June 30. Floating through is allowed. Contact the Tonto National Forest, Mesa Ranger District, (480) 610-3300.
  • Salt River near Goldfield-Kerr Fire Station is closed to foot and vehicle entry on the north side of the river from Dec. 1 to June 30. Floating through is allowed. Contact Tonto National Forest, Mesa Ranger District, (480) 610-3300.
Crescent Lake
  • A portion of the entrance road may be restricted to a “no stopping zone” and a portion of land near the parking area may be closed to foot entry from April 1 through July 30. Contact the Apache Sitgreaves National Forest, Springerville Ranger District, (928) 333-4372.
Greer Lakes
  • A portion of the lake may be closed to watercraft and a portion of the shoreline may be closed to foot entry from March 1 through July 31. Contact the Apache Sitgreaves National Forest, Springerville Ranger District, (928) 333-4372.

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, (928) 501-1710.

Lower Lake Mary
  • This closure will not be enacted unless the eagle pair moves nesting locations. Contact the Coconino National Forest, Mormon Lake Ranger District for updates, (928) 774-1147.

Luna Lake
  • The north side of Luna Lake is closed to vehicle and foot traffic from Jan. 1 to June 30. The area adjacent to the nesting closure on the upper end of the lake is closed for nesting waterfowl from Feb. 15 to July 31. Contact Apache National Forest, Alpine Ranger District, (928) 339-4384.

Lynx Lake
  • This closure will not be enacted unless the eagle pair moves nesting locations. Contact Prescott National Forest, Bradshaw Ranger District for updates, (928) 443-8000.

Show Low Lake
  • A portion of the lake may be closed to watercraft and a portion of the shoreline may be closed to foot entry from approximately March 1 through July 31. Contact the Apache Sitgreaves National Forest, Lakeside Ranger District, (928) 368-2100.

Whitehorse Lake
  • A portion of the shoreline may be closed to foot entry from March 1 to Aug. 31. Contact the Kaibab National Forest, Williams Ranger District (928) 635-5600.

Woods Canyon Lake
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  • A portion of the lake may be closed to watercraft and a portion of the shoreline is closed to foot entry from April 1 through Aug. 31. Contact the Apache Sitgreaves National Forest, Black Mesa Ranger District, (928) 535-7300.

TIPS FOR VISITING EAGLE AREAS

If you are visiting bald eagle country, an advance call to the local land management agency (U.S. Forest Service district, etc.) or the Arizona Game and Fish Department may help you 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 or on the Verde  Canyon Train in Clarkdale.
  • 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.
  • Pilots should maintain the FAA-recommended 2,000-foot AGL advisory when flying over bald eagle habitat such as along the riparian areas of the Salt and Verde Rivers and Lakes such as Lake Pleasant, Roosevelt lake, and Alamo Lake. These areas are designated on the Phoenix Sectional Aeronautical Map. Special brochures for pilots regarding this advisory can be obtained by calling the Arizona Department of Transportation or the Arizona Game and Fish Department at (623) 236-7506.
  • 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.
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.

Did You Know? The Arizona Game and Fish Department receives NO Arizona general fund tax dollars? We hold the state’s wildlife in trust for the public without a dime of Arizona's general fund tax dollars. www.azgfd.gov/inside_azgfd/funds.shtml

 
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