“Conservation” Tourism- Upper Mississippi River Bald Eagle Photography

Today, I went up to L&D 14 in Pleasant Valley, IA. I witnessed something today that I never though I would see. Someone took bait fish(to attract bald eagles for photos) over on to the island near the newly erected “perches”. I was livid. I put my equipment away.

Why was I livid? Why do I have a problem with this? The answer is multi-faceted.

  1. It is not needed- The eagles that use this L&D system have an abundance of fish available already.
  2. It is unethical- while eagles do not “train” as easily as other species, they do become “used” to this type of behavior. These are animals, that are currently thriving, and DO NOT need our help feeding. Feeding any wild animal will lead to small acclimation of the residents.
  3. It spreads- The whole Monkey see, Monkey do. It started with just a few bringing locally sourced fish, and sling-shoting them from the near shore. Last year, others from out of state started to bring in non-local species, and this can lead to a whole plethora of issues, and is illegal(Fish and Wildlife transport across state lines without a tax stamp in not permitted). It has now spread to at least 4 other L&D locations, and as of today, is leading to people going to any lengths necessary to get “The Capture”.
  4. Frozen, Dead fish appear as such in a photo. Those of us that regularly photography these birds can tell a bait fish from a live catch any day. Big difference in the quality of the capture.

My other problem, and probably the biggest issue that I have is that the Iowa DNR has chosen to turn a blind eye to this practice, unlike almost every other states in the U.S. The main reason? It’s simple. Local tourism $$ from eagle photography from Dec-Mar leads to almost $10 million in tax and other local revenue(hotel, food, other sales). The DNR has been told to “let live” because of the large amount of income coming from the practice(L&D is widely considered to be the 2nd best location in the lower 48 for bald eagle photography, at least for the “lazy’). Simply put, this is corrupt.

Do I have a solution? Not exactly, but a good start would be citing those caught doing this. I have tried reporting( which has led to citations on the IL side), but have been repeatedly told that there is “nothing they can do”.

I guess that just makes me another mouth just spouting off on the interwebs….So be it. Bring on all of the reactions!

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The Return of our National Symbol: Bald Eagles along the Upper Mississippi River Valley

This past two weeks have been very interesting as far as scouting Bald Eagles along the Upper Mississippi River Valley and it’s tributaries.  The birds have started their southern migration for the season, and have good numbers, but only in select ares.  This is because more of the abundant food sources they prey on are still moving about in the fields and prairies that cover the Midwestern landscape.   This means that the Bald Eagles are not congregating along the rivers like they normally do.  DSC09234

Part of this is due to lack of snowfall, and the other part because of unseasonable warm weather in the region so far this late fall and early winter.  The lack of snowfall has allowed other prey sources like rabbits, mice,  and smaller birds to stay active much longer than normal.  This means that the birds have stayed out in forests and prairie hunting grounds.  The warmer weather has allowed the rivers to stay completely ice free, which means that even in “normal spots” that the bald eagles congregate each winter, they are spread out as there is much more open water.  DSC09235

One of the few gathering areas this season so far has been Sunset Marina, Located in Rock Island Illinois.  Numbers for the past two weeks have averaged between 12-15 Adults, and between 15-25 Juveniles, depending on temperature and wind speed.  Today, there were about 12 active birds, and about 8-10 “perched” birds.

The one thing they were not doing much was fishing.  Lots of looking, but not much acting on it.  DSC09289

There was a pretty decent gathering of photogs out today at the site, including my friends, Matt, Julie, Anthony, and Julie’s son, and a few other new acquaintances.  It was a good afternoon of conversing, and I look forward to more in the coming months!