Take it easy: DOW stresses caution near eagle nest | PostIndependent.com

Take it easy: DOW stresses caution near eagle nest

Post Independent Photo/Kelley CoxA mated pair of bald eagles circles their nest near Aspen Glen Golf Course. An agreement with DOW states that the 10th hole will be closed whenever eagles exhibit nesting behavior.
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ASPEN GLEN ” Eagles have long been attracted to the Roaring Fork Valley ” just ask Don Henley.

But the eagles living on the banks of the Roaring Fork River this year are birds of a different feather.

A pair of nesting bald eagles living in a nest near the 10th hole of Aspen Glen Golf Course could become proud parents within the next month, a Colorado Division of Wildlife officer said.

DOW district wildlife manager Justin Martens said judging by the eagles’ behavior, the nest, located in a ponderosa pine on the west bank of the Roaring Fork River, could contain one or more eagle eggs.

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“We’re not sure what’s going on, but they definitely seem to have set up shop in Aspen Glen this year,” he said.

If Martens seems hesitant about formally proclaiming that eaglets are on the way, that’s because he is.

In the spring of 2003, a pair of eagles ” possibly the same pair ” tended to a nest on nearby Rose Ranch. Martens eagerly awaited the arrival of one or more baby bald eagles. Instead of finding newborn versions of the nation’s symbol, the DOW came up with a goose egg ” literally ” and the eagles soon flew off for the summer.

“We think these are probably the same eagles that nested in Rose Ranch last year,” Martens said. “We haven’t even verified that there are eggs in the nest yet.”

Peace and quiet needed

for successful nesting

Martens said that during the incubation period, which lasts around 35 days, it is extremely important to give the white-capped raptors their space. If they don’t have a peaceful, easy feeling, they could abandon their nest, eliminating any chance of hatching any little ones this year.

If the eaglets hatch, Martens guesses it will probably happen around May 1.

“In order for a successful nest to be there, there’s going to have to be closures,” he said.

Martens said people have recently been seen walking their dogs and bank fishing near the nest and warns them to stay away.

“If someone does something that makes them fly away, there’s some huge, ugly fines,” he said.

It’s for that reason that Martens asked the Aspen Glen Club to temporarily close the 10th hole of the golf course and the adjacent riverbank.

Floaters can still glide through that stretch of river, but they’re not allowed to drop anchor or pull onto the shore.

“That hole is closed in the spring until a DOW representative says it can be opened,” Martens said. “They usually leave during the first two weeks of March.”

It seemed there would again be no eagles this spring.

“Actually, we opened the golf club on March 20. There were no signs of eagles close to the nest,” Aspen Glen Club manager Jeff Teich said.

But just nine days later the pair of eagles was spotted. One of the eagles stayed in the nest at all times, a sign that there could be eggs in the nest.

“I raced over there and told them they had to close it down,” Martens said of the 10th hole and the area surrounding the nest.

The tree in which the eagles are nesting has had a nest since the early 1950s, according to DOW records. Only two sets of eaglets have hatched there ” in 1954 and 1973.

Golfers play first hole twice

When Aspen Glen was originally approved, an agreement specified that the 10th hole would be closed whenever eagles exhibited nesting behavior at the tree.

“Part of the agreement is if eagles were there and appeared to be mating, part of the river and the 10th hole has to be closed,” Teich said.

He said the 10th hole is the only one close enough to affect the eagles, so the rest of the course can remain open.

Teich said golfers have asked how long the 10th hole will be closed, but he said that generally the people who live in Aspen Glen welcome wildlife ” even if it interferes with the golf.

“I think it’s our part of being community and environmentally involved,” he said. “I don’t think they’re upset, but they’re concerned about when the hole will open.”

For now, golfers can play hole No. 1 twice to complete 18 holes. It works out well because hole No. 1 and hole No. 10 are both par fours, and No. 1 is conveniently right next to 18 ” and right next to the clubhouse.

Martens said it’s unknown how long hole No. 10 will be closed. Much of that timeline depends on whether eaglets actually hatch.

“Once the eggs hatch, it becomes a little less critical,” he said. “If they do hatch, it would probably be closed until the eaglets start flying. That could be June or July. We’re going to be doing a lot of monitoring.”

Teich said the Aspen Glen Club will abide by any decision the DOW makes.

“I think that the members who live in Aspen Glen like the elk and the eagles and feel they’re part of the community,” he said. “It adds to the lifestyle.”

Martens agreed.

“If we get eaglets out there, it would be a tribute to how wildlife and development can coexist.”

Contact Greg Masse: 945-8515, ext. 511

gmasse@postindependent.com


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