On September 11th, Rosemary Tolliver, a volunteer for the Audubon EagleWatch Program and also a local photographer, first noticed that the pair of eagles were back on their old nest on the large pine tree located at the back lot behind the big Publix. On September 12th, Rosemary took a photo of the eagle and noticed the presence of netting materials on the nest. This was a concern since nesting season officially starts on October 1st.
As a volunteer with Audubon EagleWatch Program, Rosemary monitors the eagle nests in Marco during the nesting season from October to May until the fledglings leave the nest. She submits her observation to the Audubon EagleWatch database.
Rosemary immediately contacted the Unites States Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) and was given approval at the federal level to get the netting removed. At the State level, the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) also granted permission for removal of netting.
According to Rosemary, the big hurdle was to find a method to get the netting removed. If it was necessary to access the nest on the property where the nest tree is located, then FWC would have to be on–site due to the presence of gopher tortoises. And the lot owner would also have to grant permission to access the property.
The local utility company was unable to help as their personnel were busy helping with recovery from Tropical Storm Sally in the Pensacola area. Tonia Selmeski of the City of Marco Island also contacted the Fire Department, but they did not have the resources to get up to the nest which was 100 feet up.
With an “it takes a village” effort, Frank Steiger and Jim Robellard both local photographers and regular monitors of the eagle nests in Marco also reached out to contacts they knew for help. Through a friend who knew a friend, looking for someone who can help in situations requiring access to high places, Rosemary was directed to Joanna Fitzgerald of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida who in turn provided the name of Ian Orlikoff, owner of Signature Tree Services in Naples.
Finally, on Friday, September 18th, Signature Tree Services agreed to help any way they can to retrieve the casting net from the nest. According to Rosemary, she has not yet seen the eagles doing any “nestoration” and this is a good thing. It will make the removal easier before the eagles start adding branches.
With “talons crossed,” Orlikoff of Signature Tree Services retrieved the casting net safely so no eagles or potential eaglets could be harmed. The eagles could have brought a branch into the nest with the netting attached to it.
Also, kudos to Bill Comer, Publix’s construction site manager, for installing a sign on the construction gate and fence warning of excessive or sudden noise during construction both in English and Spanish. According to Robellard, Comer of Publix is very aware and concerned with the eagles’ safety.
The Audubon EagleWatch Program wants to convey the message that people need to be careful when disposing nettings, fishing lines and hooks. The adult eagle could have gotten its talons or wings caught in the netting or got snagged on a branch and left hanging.
Each year, thousands of healthy birds are injured or killed as a result of entanglement with fishing lines and nettings. Fishing lines act like a saw against the flesh and bones of birds, sometimes severing wings, or legs as the bird tries to get free. Entangled birds cannot defend themselves against predators, cannot feed themselves or their chicks, and cannot free themselves without human assistance. Most die from a slow and painful death.
Bald Eagles were removed from the federal list of Threatened and Endangered Species in 2007 but they are still protected by both state and federal laws. Common threats include habitat and nest destruction, collision with vehicles, power line electrocution, territorial fights and death from entanglements—all add to their decline.