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With over 7,300 eagles being seen from one position along the Chehalis-Harrison river estuary last fall, and probably over 10,000 being present in this small region, we excitedly look towards setting another record this season. The bald eagle historically was our dominant coastline predator — certainly in greater abundance along the British Columbia shores than bears or wolves and certainly more dominant than the smaller and more ubiquitous gulls. The talks, tours and many of the Festival cooperators display different events of these prolific rivers.

Today these eagles have shown an incredible comeback from 50 years ago when they were considered vermin and shot – and even bountied — in Alaska.

Along our Chehalis-Harrison River flats each winter about 3,000 to 10,000 eagles congregate to feast on the spawned out salmon carcasses and socialize. They learn to be eagles. This is a wondrous sight, on the scale of the mass migrations of hoofed mammals on the Serengiti.

We are so fortunate to still have all five species of salmon, as well as Steelhead and rainbow trout, abundantly using these Chehalis-Harrison waters. Watch our live Salmon CAMs to show all these species in their upstream migration.
And the bald eagles have, for millennia, been feasting here. Even the Coast Salish people have had over 6,400 years of continuous occupation at the juncture of these productive rivers. (Discussed on one of the Chehalis First Nations Tours)

As the glaciers retreated with the receding ice age, these rivers quickly acquired plants and insects that supported salmon. Then the predators, the eagles, bears and humans came, but our spawning flats also attract thousands of swans, geese and ducks to also feast on the salmon eggs and rotting carcasses.

From our Eagle Point Observation Deck, accessed from the Morris Valley Road , you can witness this incredible congregation of prey and predators, and watch their constant interaction. This Observatory offers viewing of the largest gathering of eagles or predators anywhere in the world. I have counted 2,580 eagles at one time from this Observatory – and over 7,300 from out on the Fraser River Safari Tour Boat.– one of the world’s greatest predator concentrations.

Our November Bald Eagle Festival (Nov. 17 & 18, 2012) is the start of the viewing season but the feasting goes on some years as late as early February. The Christmas–New Year week usually hosts the peak numbers.

Hope to see you at the Festival or on Tour.

David Hancock
Eagle Biologist and host of Bald Eagle Live CAMs