A bald eagle count at Lake Hemet in 2012.
File photo

A 40-year tradition has come to an end. San Bernardino National Forest (SBNF) is discontinuing the winter bald eagle count after reports the species’ population has stabilized.  

“After 40 years of conducting monthly bald eagle counts during the winter at three sites, in recent years with the aid of the public, officials with SBNF are discontinuing the annual census effort,” the agency wrote in a press release issued last week. The yearly count has shown that the species’ population has stabilized since the bald eagle was delisted under the Endangered Species Act in 2007. The highest count in one year reaching 12 to 15. 

For those of you who enjoyed taking part in the annual count or just enjoy eagle watching, you will be able to participate in watching events at Lake Hemet. SBNF is not certain as to when the events will begin, hoping for December but may shift to spring, so stay tuned for future updates.  

“While it was a difficult decision to end this long-running program, the census is no longer needed from a scientific standpoint," said Mountaintop District Ranger Marc Stamer. "We are excited to shift our focus and work with our partners to provide opportunities for the public to continue experiencing the thrill of seeing bald eagles in the forest." 

Nearby events and webcam 

Both Silverwood Lake and Lake Perris will continue organizing eagle watching events throughout the winter. Contact the parks for details. You can reach Silverwood Lake at 760-389-2281 and Lake Perris at 951-940-5600. Big Bear will also be announcing winter eagle watching events.   

You can continue watching Jackie and Shadow, the two adult eagles at the Big Bear nest, on the live bald eagle nest webcam provided by the Friends of Big Bear Valley, a nonprofit, through its YouTube link (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NBQhLAIBTH0&feature=emb_title). 

Map of the the annual closure of the area around the Big Bear nest. The closure began Dec. 1.    
Map courtesy of San Bernardino National Forest 

The press release reminds the public: “Bald eagles during nesting season are sensitive to human interference and may abandon nesting activities if feeling threatened. To that end, the annual closure of the area around the nest begins Dec. 1. No entry, including snow play on the edges of the area, is allowed. The closure encompasses Grout Bay Picnic Area, the lower section of the Grays Peak Trail and surrounding national forest areas. The Grout Bay Picnic Area may remain closed beyond the eagle closure period due to construction work.