COEUR d’ALENE — While the turkey is the indisputable mascot of Thanksgiving, it shares the holiday limelight at Lake Coeur d’Alene each year with another bird, the American bald eagle.
Last week, the eagle seemed like it might be trying to steal the show.
The number of eagles counted Tuesday, Nov. 21, near Higgens Point and Beauty Bay is nearly six times higher than were counted at this time last year. Carrie Hugo, a U.S. Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist stationed in Coeur d’Alene, reported Tuesday’s count of 147 eagles, including 129 adults and 18 immature birds.
On Nov. 20, 2016, the count was just 26.
The eagles are at Lake Coeur d’Alene to feast on dying land-locked kokanee salmon, especially near Wolf Lodge Bay.
Each year in November, the fish begin to spawn in the lake’s shallow waters. The kokanee then die and float to the lake surface, creating a lavish spread eaten by migrating eagles.
The eagles, lured to the area by the spawning fish, begin arriving in late November. The birds’ numbers increase through December.
Last year, a record 261 eagles were observed at Lake Coeur d’Alene on Dec. 22.
Most eagles leave the area for southern migration destinations by the first week of January, when the number of spawning salmon has declined, although a few will remain into February.
The number of eagles observed from year to year varies from 10 to 261, with an average of 54, reports the Bureau of Land Management.
Of the eagles counted this week, 37 were observed in Beauty Bay and 55 were seen on the ridge across from Higgens Point, according to Hugo.
The eagles can be found a few miles east of Coeur d’Alene.
The BLM suggests the following viewing areas: Higgens Point, Mineral Ridge Boat Ramp, Mineral Ridge Trailhead.
To get to Mineral Ridge: Take Interstate 90 east from Coeur d’Alene for 8 miles to Wolf Lodge Bay (exit 22), then south on Highway 97 for 3 miles.
To get to Higgens Point: Turn onto Coeur d’Alene Lake Drive, at the first intersection along Sherman Avenue west of I-90, and drive toward the lake. Follow it to the end, about 6 miles.