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$1,500 fine announced for disturbing nesting bald eagles at North Park, viewing area created | TribLIVE.com
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$1,500 fine announced for disturbing nesting bald eagles at North Park, viewing area created

Mary Ann Thomas
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Courtesy of Gina Gilmore
Two bald eagles hanging out at a nest in North Park near Marshall Lake in late 2018.

Allegheny County Parks announced public viewing areas, restrictions and a $1,500 fine for disturbing a pair of bald eagles that recently built a nest on a wooded hillside near the park’s ice skating rink.

The North Park nest is among only a handful of bald eagle nests in heavily populated urban and suburban areas of Pittsburgh.

The formerly endangered raptors have been frequenting North Park for the last several years. Last year, runners, walkers and photographers spotted the birds building a nest along Kummer Road.

The birds visit the nest regularly. And if they lay eggs this year, which is a distinct possibility, it will be sometime between now and mid-March, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

Allegheny County Parks and the Game Commission are working together to monitor the birds’ nesting activity. Without the benefit of a live webcam, they will have to rely on the eagles’ behavior to determine if they are incubating eggs or feeding young in the months ahead.

County parks administration has closed small trail sections and is restricting parking and activity near the nest. The area where the birds are nesting is in one of the more remote parts of the park, which is typically used by small groups of runners, hikers and mountain bikers.

If someone flushes the bald eagles during nesting, the eggs and young could be at risk in addition to depleting the energy of and stressing out the parent birds, according to Game Commission biologists. Although bald eagles are no longer on the endangered species list, they and their nesting activities are still protected by a number of federal and state laws.

Viewing area created

The public can view the birds when they are around the nest at the North Dakota Shelter. It’s the intersection of Pearce Mill and Brown roads, which is the designated viewing area.

“Park visitors should only view the nest from the North Dakota Shelter, or farther away areas, like the Off-Leash Dog Park. DO NOT approach the nest,” Allegheny County wrote in a recent Facebook post listing restrictions and eagle etiquette.

For more details and a map showing trail closures and other information, visit North Park’s Facebook page .

Restrictions are in effect now through August:

• Sections of the Rachel Carson Trail and connecting trails are closed to all trail traffic. A trail for travel through the area is available, but trail users are asked not to stop, but rather keep moving, since it is too close for viewing.

• Parking isn’t permitted along either side of Kummer Road in the vicinity of the eagle nest — the roadway is clearly marked “No Parking.”

• If you witness harassment or flushing of the eagles, call the Allegheny County Police Department at 724-935-1901.

• Stay back. Keep at least 1,000 feet from an active nest, roost or feeding area. Use binoculars or a telescope to view the eagles at a distance.

• Quiet, please. If you must talk, whisper.

• Cover up. Use your vehicle or boat as a blind — eagles often are more alarmed by pedestrians.

• Be cool. Avoid sudden movements — and movements directed toward the eagles or the nest — while on foot or in a vehicle or boat.

• No flushing. Don’t make the birds fly. Flushing an eagle off a nest may expose the eggs or young eaglets to cold or wet weather or a nest predator.

• Pay attention. Watch how the eagle reacts to your presence — if it acts agitated, vocalizes repeatedly, or starts moving away, you are too close.

• Stay out. Respect restricted zones — they protect eagle nesting areas — and you’re breaking state and federal laws if you enter them.

• If you unexpectedly stumble onto an eagle nest, or hear an eagle vocalizing overhead, leave immediately and quietly.

• The Gamme Commission strictly enforces laws pertaining to harassing/flushing eagles. This summary offense carries fines up to $1,500 and three months in jail. For information, call the Game Commission Southwest Region at 724-238-9523.

Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary Ann at 724-226-4691, [email protected] or via Twitter @MaThomas_Trib.