Hook and bullet club - Eagles returning

by Nick Wognum

The bald eagle is our country’s national bird and especially as of late, a common site around our neck of the woods. <BR><BR>If you’ve been driving along Highway 169 the past week or so, you probably saw the eagles perched on the ice of Robinson Lake. Local back cracker Bucky Phelps was driving home the other night and saw eight eagles out on the ice. <BR><BR>I asked local DNR wildlife guy Tom Rusch what gives. “Those are tethered there for tourists,” he said with a laugh. <BR><BR>“No, there’s got to be a food source there,” said Rusch. “There’s probably something dead nearby.” <BR><BR>A dead deer would be a likely dinner for the eagles, who are great hunters as well but can scavenge with the best of them. So a roadkill deer is like free lunch for eagles.<BR><BR>“I’m a believer that the number of roadkill deer we have had is actually helping to increase the eagle population,” said Rusch.<BR><BR>He could be right. Our deer population is at nearly an all-time high. We have two body shops in town fixing headlights and fenders, and our insurance agents have been busy shuffling paperwork and repair bills. <BR><BR>But it did seem kind of odd to drive by and see several adult bald eagles standing near an air hole in the ice, looking as if they were waiting for a fish to pop its head up and have it torn off.<BR><BR>“They don’t hang around without food, it could just be somebody throwing their bait out on the ice - you have to look,” said Rusch. <BR><BR>Eagles are a migratory bird and now is the time they are passing through our area on their way back up north. Of course we have a nice population that call the Ely area home, especially along the Kawishiwi River and on several area lakes.<BR><BR>“The eagles start migrating around the last week in February or the first week in March. And when they’re going up to Canada they get held up here. They’re staging here, waiting for the lakes, creeks and rivers to open up further north,” said Rusch. <BR><BR>In the fall the eagles head south, likely following the waterways until they end up at a major food source with open water. There are several spots along the Mississippi that large groups of eagles call home in the winter.<BR><BR>“South of the Twin Cities to the Iowa border in places like Wabasha and LaCrosse are places you can see 100 eagles a day,” said Rusch. “If we get a real cold snap they might head further south but they have done counts in that area and the population is in the thousands.” <BR><BR>Eagles are increasing in numbers in Minnesota and can now be found in many agricultural areas, especially if there is a good supply of trees for them to nest in. <BR><BR>A few interesting notes on bald eagles, it takes up to four years for the white cap to appear and almost half (40%) of eagles do not survive their first flight. Once they are airborne, eagles can live to be 30 years old.<BR><BR>Firearms Safety Training starts<BR><BR>Youth firearms safety training will be held in Ely starting Tuesday, April 13. This is for anyone who will be 12 years old by Nov. 21 of 2004. Classes are held from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. <BR><BR>Sign-up will be held this Tuesday at 6 p.m., enter the JFK Building at the main entrance. Call Bob Champpa at 365-5920 for more info. Knowing Bob, you might have to leave a message with your phone number because he’s probably out fishing. <BR><BR>NRA Banquet in Ely May 21<BR><BR>The Northern St. Louis County Friends of the NRA banquet will be held Friday, May 21 at Grand Ely Lodge. <BR><BR>Social hour starts at 5:30 p.m. with the dinner at 7:15 p.m. Tickets are available at the Paddle Inn or from committee members at $25 for a single or $40 for a couple.<BR><BR>For more information call Dan and Rose Johnson at the Paddle Inn (365-6036), Brad Berry (365-2582), Lou Gerzin (365-7054) or Lolita Schnitzius (365-6571).