The release of four rehabilitated eagles on the Wisconsin River is just one of the many fantastic viewing opportunities the public will have this winter to observe the nation’s symbol in Wisconsin.
Marge Gibson and staff at the Raptor Education Group in Antigo rehabilitated the sick or injured birds, which will be released from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 17, at the VFW Park off of Water Street in Prairie du Sac.
In addition, eagle watchers will find plenty of other opportunities at a growing number of organized events along the Wisconsin, Mississippi and Fox rivers, as well as other open water areas.
“The cold winter months of January and February are the best time of the year to observe concentrations of bald eagles along the Wisconsin and Mississippi rivers,” said Sumner Matteson, an avian ecologist with the state Department of Natural Resources’ Bureau of Natural Heritage Conservation. “The best time to view wintering eagles is during the morning, when they are actively searching for fish in open waters, such as sites below the Alliant Energy Dam in Prairie du Sac and Sauk City. We expect a large number of people to visit the Sauk Prairie, Cassville and Prairie du Chien areas in the coming weeks.”
Scheduled eagle watching events and presentations include:
• Jan. 7: Eagles on ice, Alma.
• Jan. 16-17: Bald Eagle Watching Days, Prairie du Sac and Sauk City.
• Jan. 24, Jan. 31, Feb. 7, Feb. 14: Eagle watching bus tours, Sauk City.
• Jan. 24-25: Bald Eagle Days, Cassville.
• Feb. 27-28: Bald Eagle Appreciation Day, Prairie du Chien.
• March 7: Eagle Day, Ferryville.
Links to more information on these events as well as other fast facts on eagles can be found on the eagle feature page of the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov.
The Mississippi and Wisconsin rivers boast the largest concentration of wintering bald eagles in the lower 48 states.
Bald eagles, listed as endangered in the 1970s on state and federal endangered species lists, have since recovered after regulations were put into place to protect the species and following a ban on the pesticide DDT, which contributed to poor chick hatching rates. They were removed from the state list in 1997 and the federal list a decade later.
Wherever people see bald eagles in Wisconsin this winter, Matteson encourages prospective eagle watchers to keep their distance to avoid disturbing them.
“The best approach to viewing eagles is from a staffed viewing site or a parked car,” he said. “Eagles need to conserve their energy for feeding flights and to survive our long Wisconsin winters, so it’s best not to disturb them or cause unnecessary movements.”