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Joined: 06/03/2010

Back in the 1950’s we never saw a Bald Eagle around the town I lived in Upper Michigan because they were near extinction from pesticide poisoning and predation by farmers, ranchers and hunters supposedly. I don’t know if that’s really the case or if other factors were involved because I’m not an expert on large raptors. I know there must have been a few somewhere in the northern woods of the Upper Peninsula but I just never saw one.
When the 70’s rolled around I saw my first wild Bald Eagle while I was bird hunting with some friends along the mighty Menominee River, which borders Upper Michigan and Wisconsin. We saw this huge bird sitting atop a dead tree on the far bank. My friend later took his camera and returned to that area and was lucky enough to snap a few pictures of the eagle for us. I was already in my early thirties at this time so it was a real treat for me to have seen the rare bird in real life.
When I moved back to the U.P. from my travels around the country in the 90’s, eagles were becoming more common place in this area and I would sometimes see one soaring in the sky above our hunting camp lands or even along the shores of Green Bay and Lake Michigan, since they are fish eaters as well as scavengers and /or hunters.
Just a few years ago my wife and I saw a couple of eagles sitting on a dead deer carcass near the road as we were driving around viewing the sights of a new spring season. Their size is extraordinary; with the carcass as a reference it was easy to see how the wingspan could be six feet or more. Besides that, the size of the huge crooked beak and talons is as impressive as can be!
I was always non-committed as to whether the repopulation of this national bird was good or bad or of no consequence. Besides the animosity among ranchers and farmers I also remembered reading about eagle predation to mountain goats and sheep along with young elk and mule deer, but since this had never been a problem in my Midwestern area I hadn’t paid much attention to that. I even remember reading in some of Elmer Keith’s articles that he had little love for the bird at times.
That changed a bit when I read a recent report on the predation of the whitetail deer in Michigan. The predators were wolves, coyotes, black bears and, surprisingly, Bald Eagles! It seems that as much as being a scavenger as the eagle is or, as bird lovers point out, a fish eater by nature, the wily eagle also is an expert predator who likes fawns. In fact, the fawn predation by eagles in northern Michigan was actually pretty high, although out ranked by the carnivores quite handily, the eagles still accounted for quite a good percentage of the fawn kills in the spring and early summer when the fawns are most vulnerable. I had all ready read that eagles, both bald and golden, also account for some lamb kills in sheep herding country. A full grown eagle apparently has little trouble lifting 20 – 30 or more pounds of animal when it wants to.
All of these things were my running rampant in my mind when I let my dogs out this morning and soon saw a large Bald Eagle soaring above my yard. I have, on occasion, seen eagles around but not this close and not when my pets were out in the yard so visible against the snow cover. My littlest is only 18 pounds and her blonde coat shines like gold in the sun, so I was quite panicked at the possibility of Mr. Bald Eagle supplementing his carrion diet with some fresh “Baby Girl”! I hastened my dogs back inside when the eagle made several more passes overhead while his white head and tail shown brilliantly against the sun as he cast a giant shadow over the yard.
I don’t know if he was really scoping out my pets or not but it was entirely possible since winter hunting is probably quite hit and miss for him. What I am sure about though is from now on I’m going to keep an “Eagle Eye” out for eagles in the sky!