July 08, 2010
Bald Eagles On the Attack in Alaska
By Chad Love
The residents of the fishing village of Unalaska, Alaska are probably wishing that Ben Franklin had gotten his way back when he proposed make the wild turkey our national symbol, because our current national symbol is becoming a real pain in the neck. Literally.
From this story on KansasCity.com:
On a recent weekday, Allana Gustafson was pushing an empty mail cart outside the Dutch Harbor post office in Alaska when she heard the beating of wings like heavy breathing behind her. Next came a sharp pain. A bald eagle nesting on the nearby cliff had swooped down and carved a rice grain-sized divot in her scalp, she said, leaving a bloody but superficial wound and serving as a reminder to eagle-ridden Unalaska: Don't turn your back on big, nesting birds. Residents of the island fishing town reported at least two eagle attacks to police within the past two weeks, according to the Unalaska Department of Public Safety. One man said eagles dove at him three times this summer and police on Wednesday posted warning signs near high-traffic nesting areas where eagles are known to dive-bomb passersby.
One of the wide, white placards stands a few yards away from the post office like a high-voltage warning: "DANGER NESTING EAGLES." On the sign a silhouetted eagle swoops talons-first toward a picture of a person waving their hands in fear. There's nothing mysterious about the attacks, which are reported year after year, said Unalaska police Sgt. Matt Betzen. Just birds protecting their nests. "I think we had more swoops last year," he said. Still, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service division chief for migratory bird management in Alaska is visiting Dutch Harbor this week. He'll review the situation and recommend what to do next, said Wildlife Service spokesman Larry Bell.
It's against federal law to kill, injure or move bald eagles under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. But people can apply for permits to kill or disturb eagles or move their nests under certain circumstances, such as threats to public safety. Bald eagles can weigh up to 14 pounds and have wingspans of up to 8 feet, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service. They mate for life, typically enlarging the same nest each year in tree tops and cliffs, the agency says. Sonia Handforth-Kome, executive director of the Iliuliuk Health Clinic, said a pair of eagles has nested across the street from the clinic since before she began working there nine years ago. Last year they dove at people at least four times, she said. A woman on a bicycle was attacked twice in one day. "Our board president got chased into the clinic," Handforth-Kome said, though she hasn't heard of the pair attacking anyone near the clinic this year.