We are sorry to announce that the Fort St. Vrain eagle nest in Colorado has failed. A violent storm soaked the nest and remaining two young, who died of cold. This is the second time this has happened at this nest, which is in a remote and hard to reach area. This brings up some questions we are often asked. When is it right to intervene in a nest? Is it ever wrong to intervene in a nest? How do we decide when to intervene?
Intervention isn't always possible. Neither the Fort St. Vrain nor Decorah Bald eagle nests can be easily and safely accessed once babies are in the nest. A bucket truck isn't an option and we can't shoot a line. Those of you who watched Decorah in 2011 might remember the saga of the dreaded red twine. None of us wanted to watch an eaglet die from gangrene or infection, but going up to the nest could have resulted in the death of one or more of the eaglets if they were hit by a bolt or jumped from the nest once we intruded on it. Sometimes we can't intervene.
It isn't always clear when intervention is needed. Several years ago, a female falcon named Alma died after hatching five babies. The babies were 20 or so days old - far past needing brooding. We debated at length whether to go up and retrieve them. Since Dairyland Power Alma can be remotely monitored, we decided to let Dad try raising all five. He did a wonderful job and all five fledged without intervention. Many things that might seem to us to require intervention - a parent dying, things that go bump in the night, loud noises, hungry babies - are a regular part of life for the birds we watch. Intervention isn't always necessary.
However, intervention is sometimes both possible and necessary. We give Spartrix to nestling falcons when they have Frounce. We do our best to create raccoon-proof nesting sites for birds - eagles and falcons can handle most challengers, but raccoon are a serious problem. We recommend putting grounded young birds in a high place, safe from traffic, people, and other animals. When it is possible and necessary, we intervene.
Death is part of the natural order, but that doesn't make it any less sad when it happens. I am glad that the rest of our Colorado nests appeared to have made it through. We watch these animals and love them, but they belong to no one but themselves. Their lives are a gift we are privileged to share.