By Kristian Rasmussen
High winds stole the lives of two special friends of the Fairmont Hot Springs community on Sunday, April 24th. A pair of baby eagles were killed when their nest tumbled out of its tree.
“It came down during the big wind at about 3:40 p.m.,” said Lynda Devenish, a Fairmont resident who lives just steps from the former nest site. “I went out at about 4 p.m. and the babies were still warm, but they were dead.”
After making the grisly discovery, Ms. Devenish looked through the nest remains, spotting all sorts of food scattered through the nest that had been gathered for the babies. Fish, squirrels and deer bones were all present.
“One of them had fish eggs in its mouth,” Ms. Devenish said.
One young bird weighed around two pounds and the other, about half that weight, she estimated. The nest was eight feet wide, and situated just steps away from Ms. Devenish’s property.
The Fairmont resident had grown accustomed to the neighbourhood’s unofficial mascots.
“Having all this lovely nature around us is part of life here,” she explained. “This has been such a heartbreak to the residences, but also to the people who play golf here. Everyone looks up and tries to figure out how many heads are sticking up. How many babies are there?”
Bobbie Charter lives a block from the nest and said she hopes the eagles will rebuild.
“It is so important for our community to have these eagles,” she said. “We are hoping that they will stay. This nest has been so perfect.”
The tumble and crash has upset many animal lovers in the Fairmont community.
“Everybody has been phoning and saying that the thought of not having that nest, or not being able to see the eagles is terrible,” Ms. Charter said.
After receiving news of the incident, Mark Zehnder, Invermere veterinarian, arrived on scene.
“The parents were flying around and one of them had a fish, probably the male,” he said. “He was still parenting and trying to figure out what was going on.”
“I just went to see, by some fluke of nature, that maybe there would be another one there that was still alive.”
Eagles prefer to make their nests in large, dead trees with open sight lines, according to the veterinarian. The lack of foliage and clear views made the Fairmont nest the perfect choice. But the lack of available wind protection and the dead tree likely contributed to the crash.
The majority of eagle-related deaths and injuries in the Columbia Valley are the result of human interaction with the birds, Mr. Zehnder said. The veterinarian will soon be taking an eagle-specific course in Montana so that he can treat more avian-related injuries.
“Over the years it has gotten worse. The majority of the accidents involve eagles hit by cars, or flying into power lines.”