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Protecting Sauk Prairie area eagles from hikers

SAUK PRAIRIE (WKOW) — The Sauk Prairie area is home to dozens of bald eagles.

Eagle conservationists say more and more people are invading their habitat at the Ferry Bluff Natural Area along the Wisconsin River.

The Ferry Bluff Eagle Council’s annual Eagle Release Days often bring hundreds of people to watch eagles fly.

“I don’t think there’s anyone in the Sauk Prairie area who hasn’t had a close encounter with an eagle,” Eugene Unger, president of the Ferry Bluff Eagle Council said.

Ferry Bluff, along the Wisconsin River, is a roost spot for the area’s bald eagles, because of ample food sources around the river.

Normally it’s also a popular hiking trail but it’s closed during the winter months, because the eagles can be easily disturbed.

He says trespassers ignore the the chained off fence, startling the eagles.

“If they’re chased off or disturbed off of these roosts, they expel a lot of energy that they wouldn’t have had to,” Unger said. “It could be the energy that they need, they might not have eaten that day.”

Now they’re ramping up the warning to humans that disturbing the birds could put them at risk and lead to fines. He says they would love for people visit Ferry Bluff, during other parts of the year. If you’re hiking while the fence is up you could find yourself with a more than $200 fine.

He also says it’s not particularly safe.

It’s a slightly dangerous hiking along the river bank and then getting up to those upper bluffs,” Unger said. “It’s not a monitored area, difficult to get ambulances and things like that in here and there could definitely be an accident and you’d be back here by yourself.”

For people who want to see the eagles up close and personal, the Eagle Council hosts multiple opportunities throughout the winter.

“You’ll see these birds, you don’t have to go hike up the hill and disturb them to see em, they’re in Sauk Prairie,” he said.

Ferry Bluff is under DNR jurisdiction but wardens can’t be there all the time monitoring it.

If you see hikers in that area, you can call the DNR hotline and notify them of trespassers.

Francisco Almenara

Reporter, WKOW

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