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Bald eagles find hibernating bear in their nest
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel ^ | 16 March 2004 | Meg Jones

Posted on 03/16/2004 2:42:20 PM PST by July 4th

Somewhere on the sprawling Chippewa Flowage in northern Wisconsin there's a pair of bald eagles that are mad as hell.

A furry surprise awaited a pair of bald eagles when they returned to their nest at the top of a 45-foot aspen on the Chippewa Flowage. Bears usually prefer to hibernate in caves, hollow trees or culverts.

It's just about time to lay eggs in their huge 4-foot-wide nest at the top of a 45-foot aspen. The nest is made of twigs, grass and moss and took them weeks to build.

The only problem - there's a bear slumbering peacefully in their cushy nest.

"You can imagine they're thinking, 'Now what?' " said Ron Eckstein, a state Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist who has spent many years researching bald eagles.

While bears choose a number of places to sleep out the winter - caves, overturned trees, culverts and fallen logs - it's very unusual to see them in a penthouse suite high above the ground.

In fact, on Monday DNR wildlife biologists could recall only one other documented instance in Wisconsin. That was in fall 2002, when DNR avian ecologist Pat Manthey saw a bear in an eagle's nest on the St. Croix Flowage near Gordon in Douglas County as she was doing an aerial survey of trumpeter swans.

A couple snowmobiling in Sawyer County saw the eagle nest on Dec. 31 and thought there was something inside it. They returned on New Year's Day with a camera outfitted with a telephoto lens.

"We thought maybe it was a raccoon at first. We thought something was up there, but we didn't know what," said Jennifer Ehrlichman of Hayward.

Her boyfriend used his deer hunting tree stand to climb up an adjacent tree to snap some photos. The bear stirred, and they could see its head and furry ears.

"He looked pretty sleepy. I think he wakes up enough with the snowmobiles going by underneath," said Ehrlichman, who notified DNR authorities.

Gender, size unknown

The bear's gender is not known, and its weight has been estimated at around 150 pounds, though it's hard to tell just how big it is. Most bears spend their November-to-April hibernation resting on their stomachs or sides with their legs tucked under them.

Ehrlichman's boyfriend returned to the site a few weeks ago and saw three eagles in the area, including one perched about 10 feet away from the nest, eyeing the somnolent interloper.

Eagles generally use their well-built nests as nurseries. They lay their eggs and then rear the young hatchlings in the nest, though sometimes it's also used as a platform to dine on a big, fat fish, Eckstein said.

While immature eagles, generally those 5 and younger, will head south for the winter in search of open water to fish, mating pairs are very territorial. They're reluctant to leave their area for fear of another pair horning in on their turf. So they will hang around their territory as long as possible and generally leave for only a month or so to find food when it gets cold in January before returning, Eckstein explained.

So if the bear climbed into their nest in November, it's likely they would have watched but not attacked because eagles generally don't pick quarrels with other species. Unless, of course, you're a walleye.

"If a big bear came, they wouldn't be aggressive. They'd just be - 'Oh oh,' " said Eckstein.

There are about 850 nesting pairs of bald eagles in the state. Most breed in northern Wisconsin, though some now nest along the lower Wisconsin River and Mississippi River.

On the Chippewa Flowage in Sawyer County, there are 12 to 15 territories staked out by eagles, said Lowell Tesky, a DNR wildlife technician in Hayward who surveys the eagle population there each year.

Though most eagles choose pine trees for their nests, some build them in aspen. That stretch of the Chippewa Flowage is filled with big aspens because there's no tree cutting allowed along the shoreline. Tesky has spent the last 16 years working out of the Hayward DNR office, and he was surprised to learn about the bear's hibernation spot.

"That's got to be a real cold way to spend the winter. They do lay on the ground in a nest of leaves sometimes, but up there (in the eagle nest) it's got to be cold in the winter," Tesky said.

With all the sleeping spots it could have chosen on terra firma, it's a mystery why this bear chose to scramble up a tree. Mike Gappa, a retired DNR bear ecologist, suspects it's a young animal because they're smaller and more inquisitive than older bears.

"Why that little devil went to the eagle's nest, it's hard to say. Maybe this animal in the past has had some disturbance on the ground" during hibernation and chose to climb up a tree, Gappa said.

Gappa pointed out that bears don't actually sleep during hibernation. They're aware of what's going on around them, but their metabolism slows down and they don't eat, drink, urinate or defecate.

Eckstein has climbed into hundreds of eagle nests while researching the bird over the decades and has seen bear claw marks on aspen bark underneath nests, but never a bear.

Not time to wake up

With 20 inches of snow still on the ground in Sawyer County, wildlife biologists are not expecting the bear to wake up, stretch, scratch and climb down any time soon. Depending on weather conditions, bears generally come out of hibernation in April.

This bear is in good company. Though he may be the only one known to spend the winter swaying above the ground in a bird's nest, there are 1.4 bears per square mile in that area, said Ken Jonas, the DNR wildlife supervisor for the Upper Chippewa area. The state's black bear population has fluctuated between 11,000 and 14,000 in the last few years.

Jonas is worried that people will find out the bear's location and try to wake it up. He pointed out that it's against the law to disturb a hibernating bear. Entering the den of a bear in hibernation carries a maximum penalty of nine months in jail and a $10,000 fine.

"We frequently have bears walking around in late March. They often go back to the den and sleep it off," said Jonas. But "if they're disturbed before they're ready to come out, they use up too much energy."


TOPICS: Culture/Society; US: Wisconsin
KEYWORDS: baldeagle; baldeagles; bear; nest; wildlife
Hmmm...okay then.
1 posted on 03/16/2004 2:42:22 PM PST by July 4th
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To: July 4th

2 posted on 03/16/2004 2:43:09 PM PST by July 4th (You need to click "Abstimmen")
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To: July 4th
It's prophecy!!! It's prophecy!!!

The bear is the evil Russian and the Eagle's nest is America!!! We're going to be overtaken!!! Run for the hills!!!

sarcasm off

3 posted on 03/16/2004 2:45:25 PM PST by TexasNative2000 (Live dangerously)
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To: farmfriend
Ping!
4 posted on 03/16/2004 2:46:23 PM PST by annyokie (There are two sides to every argument, but I'm too busy to listen to yours.)
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To: TexasNative2000
Are you TRYING to start a panic in the tin-foil crowd?

LOL!
5 posted on 03/16/2004 2:48:03 PM PST by tiamat ("Just a Bronze-Age Gal, Trapped in a Techno World!")
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To: July 4th
That is so cool... awwwwwwhhhh
6 posted on 03/16/2004 2:49:31 PM PST by Integrityrocks
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To: July 4th
Is it just me or does there seem to be an inordinate amount of weird news that comes from Wisconsin?
7 posted on 03/16/2004 2:51:02 PM PST by raybbr (My 1.4 cents - It used to be 2 cents, but after taxes - you get the idea.)
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To: TexasNative2000; July 4th; aculeus; general_re; BlueLancer; Poohbah; Catspaw; Fraulein; ...
This is not a drill. We are DOOMED!

;-)

8 posted on 03/16/2004 2:51:45 PM PST by dighton
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To: TexasNative2000
Reagan, 1984: There is a bear in the woods. For some people, the bear is easy to see. Others don’t see it at all. Some people say the bear is tame, others say it’s vicious and dangerous. Since no one can really be sure who’s right, isn’t it smart to be as strong as the bear? If there is a bear.
9 posted on 03/16/2004 2:52:24 PM PST by July 4th (You need to click "Abstimmen")
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To: July 4th
Battle of the endagered species.

Could you imagine if the Bald Eagles battled the Bear? The Sierra Club/PETA/Greenpeace people's heads would explode.

No conservatives/Republican's to blame....what will they do? Maybe they could send each animal to species based sensitivity training.

10 posted on 03/16/2004 2:53:25 PM PST by AreaMan
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To: tiamat
Are you TRYING to start a panic in the tin-foil crowd?

Wouldn't be fun otherwise, would it?

11 posted on 03/16/2004 2:53:30 PM PST by TexasNative2000 (Live dangerously)
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To: dighton
Bald eagles find hibernating bear in their nest

Minorities and women hit hardest.

12 posted on 03/16/2004 2:54:36 PM PST by freedumb2003 (If your cat has babies in the oven you don't call them biscuits!)
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To: TexasNative2000
LOL!

I've just been on toooooo many "The End is NIGH" threads of late!

13 posted on 03/16/2004 2:55:16 PM PST by tiamat ("Just a Bronze-Age Gal, Trapped in a Techno World!")
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To: July 4th
I guess the porridge was just right?
14 posted on 03/16/2004 2:55:54 PM PST by Diddle E. Squat (When the going gets tough, take a siesta?)
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To: AreaMan
Could you imagine if the Bald Eagles battled the Bear?

My prediction; Philadelphia Eagles 28, Chicago Bears 6

15 posted on 03/16/2004 2:56:31 PM PST by TexasNative2000 (Live dangerously)
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To: TexasNative2000
My prediction; Philadelphia Eagles 28, Chicago Bears 6

Da Bears!

16 posted on 03/16/2004 3:00:10 PM PST by AreaMan
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To: July 4th
"Jonas is worried that people will find out the bear's location and try to wake it up. He pointed out that it's against the law to disturb a hibernating bear. Entering the den of a bear in hibernation carries a maximum penalty of nine months in jail and a $10,000 fine."

Well we all know it is illegal to disturb and American Eagle too. A protected species. So shouldn't they go get the bear and take it to Jail.
17 posted on 03/16/2004 3:02:08 PM PST by Revel
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To: July 4th
Is he hibernating? Or is he drunk?

In college I used to wake up in some strange places too. :)
18 posted on 03/16/2004 3:02:39 PM PST by Daus
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To: July 4th
The bear seeks the peace and safety of the eagles nest.
19 posted on 03/16/2004 3:06:08 PM PST by massatoosits
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To: July 4th
The bear seeks the peace and safety of the eagles nest.
20 posted on 03/16/2004 3:06:25 PM PST by massatoosits
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To: July 4th
Wow, what a pic!
21 posted on 03/16/2004 3:10:15 PM PST by nutmeg (Why vote for Bush? Imagine Commander in Chief John Fin al-Qerry)
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To: July 4th
Entering the den of a bear in hibernation carries a maximum penalty of nine months in jail and a $10,000 fine.

Or we eat you.

BTW it was the only place where I could get decent reception for my laptop.:)

22 posted on 03/16/2004 3:15:22 PM PST by Harmless Teddy Bear (Proudly out of step with the majority since 1973)
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To: July 4th
On the Chippewa Flowage in Sawyer County, there are 12 to 15 territories staked out by eagles, said Lowell Tesky, a DNR wildlife technician in Hayward who surveys the eagle population there each year.

Hey Lowell...if you read this how ya doing?....great guy that Lowell...wildlife fanatic since he was a kid...we played on the same grade school football team together..

lived in the same neighborhood..Junior High & High School together...

his whole family...good people... I always wondered what happened to Lowell

...now thirty five yrs later...I find out....on FR... Cool....

23 posted on 03/16/2004 3:16:14 PM PST by joesnuffy (Moderate Islam Is For Dilettantes)
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To: AreaMan
No conservatives/Republican's to blame....what will they do?

The environazis are more imaginative than that. Of course WE forced the bear to go where he did not belong by taking over his habitat! It IS our fault!
24 posted on 03/16/2004 3:16:30 PM PST by sittnick (There's no salvation in politics.)
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To: sittnick
Damn, I hate it when that happens. You come home tired, the kids are tired, you are about to deliver your baby and the damned bears have moved in lock stock and barrel. And the government protects them.
25 posted on 03/16/2004 3:33:50 PM PST by cajungirl (John Kerry has no botox and I have a bridge to sell you!)
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To: cajungirl
Goldylocks payback......
26 posted on 03/16/2004 3:41:05 PM PST by blackdog (I feed the sheep the coyotes eat)
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To: July 4th
You shall see thangs wonderful to tell. You shall see a...a...cow on the roof of a...cottonhouse. And oh so many startlements.
27 posted on 03/16/2004 3:49:54 PM PST by Some hope remaining.
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To: July 4th
Awww... I just love this... Ain't this cute!... lol

A bear in the tree and more over in the nest. What does it tell you? Don't build a house that is way too cousy for the intruders... Otherwise, see what happens? :)

The only question still remains what would happen to those birds if this will continue since in this the most recent news next to the 2002 news of the same encounter of having a bear in the tree... Anyways, I think if birds don't mind... let the bear hatch the eggs for them and they can go somewhere else for a while like take a vocation and then come back and their babies are safe and sound.

Think of the bear as the babysiter ;)
28 posted on 03/16/2004 4:04:25 PM PST by Little_Fish_In_Big_Pond
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To: blackdog
LOL!
29 posted on 03/16/2004 4:20:08 PM PST by cajungirl (John Kerry has no botox and I have a bridge to sell you!)
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To: July 4th
"Why that little devil went to the eagle's nest, it's hard to say. Maybe this animal in the past has had some disturbance on the ground" during hibernation and chose to climb up a tree, Gappa said.

No, it's just one of the Chicago Cubs trying to see what it feels like at the top.

30 posted on 03/16/2004 4:20:17 PM PST by Vigilanteman (crime would drop like a sprung trap-door if we brought back good old-fashioned hangings)
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To: cajungirl
Did you ever notice that after a tornado, hurricane, or similar tree stripping, tree crashing meteorological disaster that the fine engineering work of squirels, ospreys, and eagles goes unscathed?

I mean in this case, a #150 bear spends the entire winter in a pile of sticks atop a 75' windwhipped tree and the structure is solid after months of tossing and turning! The only thing holding the nest together is the selection, placement, and interlock of kindling wood.

Nature sure has some fine builders.

31 posted on 03/16/2004 4:35:33 PM PST by blackdog (I feed the sheep the coyotes eat)
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To: blackdog
I have noticed that. We lost a couple trees this winter and when having them chopped and carried away, we noted all the undisturbed bird's nests. They are better than my builders. The pic of that bear in the birdnest and the birds consternation has been making me chuckle all evening.
32 posted on 03/16/2004 4:45:51 PM PST by cajungirl (John Kerry has no botox and I have a bridge to sell you!)
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