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Raccoon steals eaglet from Fort St. Vrain bald eagle nest

A second eaglet in the nest survived the incursion late Monday, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
Credit: Colorado Parks and Wildlife
A screenshot from an Xcel Energy live camera showing a raccoon climbing into the Fort St. Vrain bald eagle nest.

PLATTEVILLE, Colo. — One of two eaglets in the Fort St. Vrain bald eagle nest died Monday night when a raccoon got into the nest and took it, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW).

The Xcel Energy live camera pointed at the nest was on when the raccoon scaled to the top of the nest tree and grabbed the older and larger of the two eaglets at 7 p.m. Monday, CPW said.

Wildlife Officer Mike Grooms responded to the nest, which is near Platteville, and collected the carcass of the eaglet. The remains will be delivered to CPW's Wildlife Health Lab to be tested for Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, CPW said.

The second eaglet was observed alive in the nest Tuesday morning.

The two eaglets were six weeks old as of Monday, according to CPW. Eaglets approach their adult size by nine to 10 weeks and are close to fledging from the nest around 12 weeks.

Credit: Courtesy of Xcel Energy Eagle Cam
A 6-week-old eaglet sits in the Fort St. Vrain bald eagle nest Tuesday near Platteville, Colorado.

"Predation of eaglets is not something you often hear about," according to CPW in a news release. "Without a webcam, such events are hard to document."

The most likely mammals to prey on bald eagles are raccoons, while avian predators include magpies, crows and ravens, hawks and owls. 

The agency said that the majority of nest failures in Colorado are attributed to weather events, new or inexperienced parents, the loss of one of the parents during the nesting season and potential human-related disturbances.

There were 246 reported and occupied bald eagle nests in Colorado last year, up from 82 nests five years before, CPW said.

Forty-six eagles have hatched in the Fort St. Vrain nest since 2003, according to the Raptor Resource Project.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife said that people who travel to see a nest need to follow 'Leave No Trace' principles:

  • Stay on designated trails. Be aware of closed sections of trails that are in place to protect nesting locations.
  • Keep a proper buffer distance from wildlife. If you're altering the behavior of the animal, you're too close. Use a telephoto lens to "get closer."
  • Don't feed or bait wildlife to attract them.
  • Don't use recorded calls to attract birds to an area.
  • Don't alter the scene for a photo (or for any reason). Leave all objects, leaves, branches, rocks, etc. where they are.

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