jeff hodson/metro vancouver
B.C.’s bald eagle capital recorded its lowest number of eagles in 17 years yesterday because of low salmon returns, heavy rain and snow on the day of the count.
The 22nd annual Brackendale Eagle count, held yesterday in the small community north of Squamish, recorded 893 mature and juvenile bald eagles, down 864 from the 1,757 counted last year.
“It’s way down, but we knew that,” said chief counter Thor Froslev. “We only had a quarter of the salmon coming in for this season. It was no surprise.”
About 60 volunteers counted the number of eagles in an area 40-kilometres long by two-kilometres wide.
Chum salmon returns in the Squamish River were down significantly, said Froslev. As well, heavy rain and snow — with flakes the “size of silver dollars” — made things difficult for counters.
Froslev called the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and was told that small salmon runs occur every four to five years.
“(The eagles) will survive,” he added. “They’ve survived for 9,000 years. They’ll survive this too.”
Soggy birdwatchers flocked to the edge of the Squamish River where a few bald eagles could be seen in distant treetops.
The best viewing point may have been the local dump, where more than 200 eagles were counted — about a quarter of the total.
Landfill staff turned photographers away yesterday.