In late July, a black bear was found taking a nap in an unusual spot: A six-foot-wide bald eagle nest. The nest and the bear were seen at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER) in Anchorage, Alaska during a wildlife study conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).
“In the past, a few eagle nests have been raided by black bears with predictably bad results for the nesting eagles,” wrote the USFWS in a recent Facebook post. According to agency, the eagles that occupied the nest were seen incubating an egg there in May of 2023, but it’s thought that the nest may have already failed by the time the black bear decided to take up residence.
According LiveScience, during the May study, both the female and the male bald eagles were seen outside of the nest, having left their egg in the cold. “It wasn’t clear if the nesting attempt had failed or if the female was just taking a break from incubating,” said Stephen B. Lewis, who leads eagle nest surveys at the base.
It’s not unheard of for bears to climb into bald eagle nests, but it’s hard to know how common it might be due to limited monitoring. “At first, my mind was trying to make it into a baby eagle…perhaps with its wings spread or something,” Lewis later told the Ancorage Daily News. “Then I realized it was a small bear sleeping there.”
There are many factors that could attract a black bear to a bald eagle’s nest, Lewis said, including the lingering smell of fish. He also noted that the bear in the photo could have been making a bed high and away from the more formidable brown bears known to inhabit the area. Or the bear “could have just happened to climb the tree and decided to take a nap.”