World’s largest congregation of eagles begins in B.C.

The world’s largest congregation of bald eagles happens on the river in the little community of Harrison Mills

Along the Harrison River in B.C.’s Fraser Valley, thousands of eagles are gathering to gorge on salmon that have reached the spawning ground.

David Hancock, a biologist who has been studying eagles for about 65 years, says the world’s largest congregation of bald eagles happens on the river in the little community of Harrison Mills, about 100 kilometres east of Vancouver.

“Last Saturday morning I did a survey off the river and there were just over 7,000 eagles in the area,” he said in a recent interview. “This is the most we’ve ever had in November.”

About 35,000 eagles gather in the lower Fraser Valley between November and February, and some days about 2,000 to 3,000 raptors move in, Hancock said.

“It’s the biggest single accumulating area because the Harrison River is the single most productive river,” said Hancock. “It’s the only river in Canada called a salmon stronghold river.”

The Harrison River is a tributary of the Fraser River and runs about 18 kilometres in length.

READ MORE: Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival explodes in popularity, draws thousands to Mission, Harrison Mills

READ MORE: Record-breaking bald eagle numbers predicted in Harrison Mills this fall

As rivers in Yukon, Alaska and northern British Columbia ice up food supplies freeze too, which forces the eagles south.

“Our salmon are just beginning to die so the table is set down here,” said Hancock.

But there are other factors that contribute to the number of eagles that descend on the area.

“Sometimes the north doesn’t freeze up and the eagles don’t need to come,” he added. “Some years we don’t get as many salmon so the table isn’t as generously set.”

The eagles remain in the area until February although a few thousand may fly further south into Washington, Oregon and California as winter deepens.

Hancock said this year, the Harrison River does not have enough salmon.

“This was not a good year for spawning,” he said.

When the salmon carcasses are gone, he said the eagles feed on spawned herring and oolachin, a smelt.

In about four years the area might not see as many eagles because overharvesting means there won’t be as many salmon carcasses for them to feed on, he said.

Hancock said in the last two decades researchers have learned about the connection between the huge trees in forests in the area and spawned salmon. The carcasses of spawned salmon give nutrition to the soil, he added, which helps trees grow.

“Without those salmon there are no big forests,” Hancock said. “That’s the lesson we learned in the last 20 years of ecology.”

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

West Kootenay highways a mess as heavy snowfall continues

‘Roads are very icy, people have to be patient and have to slow down’

Over $25,000 raised for Columbia Basin literacy

Success for 2018 Books for Kids campaign

It’s the last day to vote in B.C.’s referendum on electoral reform

Ballots must now be dropped off in person to meet the deadline of 4:30 p.m.

Grand Forks bantam team takes Nelson tournament

The team dominated the competition with some outstanding displays of skill and technique.

Donate to the Grand Forks and District Public Library

The library is undertaking significant washroom renovations.

VIDEO: Close encounter with a whale near Canada-U.S border

Ron Gillies had his camera ready when a whale appeared Dec. 7

Famous giant tortoise DNA may hold fountain of youth: UCBO

After Lonesome George’s death he still provides clues to longer life

Oogie Boogie, Sandy Claws and coffin sleigh part of B.C. couple’s holiday display

Chilliwack couple decorates their house for the holidays using Nightmare Before Christmas theme

First Nation sues Alberta, says oilsands project threatens sacred site

Prosper Petroleum’s $440-million, 10,000-barrel-a-day plans have been vigorously opposed by Fort McKay

North Okanagan site of first RCMP naloxone test project

Free kits, training to be provided to high-risk individuals who spend time in cell blocks

1 arrested after bizarre incident at U.S.-B.C. border involving bags of meth, car crash

Man arrested after ruckus in Sumas and Abbotsford on Thursday night

More B.C. Indigenous students graduating high school: report

70% of Indigenous students graduated, compared to 86% across all B.C. students

2 facing animal cruelty charges after emaciated dog found in B.C.

Amy Hui-Yu Lin and Glenn Mislang have been charged with causing an animal to continue to be in distress

Out of the doghouse: B.C. city lifts ban on pup who barked too much at dog park

Cameron the Shetland sheepdog is allowed back into Uplands off-leash dog park under some conditions.

Most Read