Once the northern rivers’ fish supply is frozen up, eagles will fly thousands of miles a day to reach the Chehalis Flats for dead salmon snacks. (David Hancock file photo)

Once the northern rivers’ fish supply is frozen up, eagles will fly thousands of miles a day to reach the Chehalis Flats for dead salmon snacks. (David Hancock file photo)

Thousands of eagles to return to Fraser Valley

Eagle biologist David Hancock says in the 1960s, he counted only three nesting pairs in the valley

South Surrey eagle biologist David Hancock says every day for the next two months, hundreds of bald eagles will be returning to the Fraser Valley.

It’s a dramatic comparison to when Hancock, the founder of the Hancock Wildlife Foundation, began researching the birds in the 1960s.

Hancock told Peace Arch News Sunday that in the ’60s, he counted only three nesting pairs in the valley.

“Local eagles had been defined as ‘vermin’ and were regularly shot – particularly by Americans who got $2 for each pair of eagle legs. Eagles only became icons of good when Rachel Carson led the world in an educational campaign against pesticides and changed our attitude towards predators at all the same time. It took the eagles 20 years to believe we could be trusted neighbours,” Hancock wrote to PAN.

Today, Hancock estimates that there are 19 nests in Vancouver, more than 80 in Delta, and 43 in Surrey.

“I have identified over 480 nesting territories in the valley but expect there are well over 550 pairs nesting between Vancouver and Hope,” Hancock wrote.

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Yesterday, Hancock counted between 500 to 550 eagles at Harrison and Chehalis rivers.

“With the cold weather north of us I expect we could see 200 to 500 per day arriving through November and December. Now the southern challenge is will our reduced spawning fish stock be able to feed them. The key is about 35,000 eagle migrants are on their way south looking for a free dinner.”

Residents in White Rock, South Surrey and Delta can keep track of locally nesting eagles. Hancock has installed cameras on a number of nests throughout the area, which can be found here.

The 24th annual Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival is to take place Nov. 16-17 at Harrison Mills.

More information on the event can be found at http://fraservalleybaldeaglefestival.ca/