December 5, 2008
Miller County – The Missouri Department of Transportation wants to make sure that efforts to provide a safe and efficient transportation system don’t conflict with efforts to protect national wildlife and area habitats.
Last March, MoDOT employees discovered a bald eagle nest along the proposed alignment for the new U.S. Route 54 Expressway in Camden and Miller counties. The bald eagle is a federally protected species covered by the Migratory Bird Treaty and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, which meant that MoDOT would need to proceed very carefully to ensure that no harm would come to the two adult eagles and two nestlings living there.
MoDOT environmental specialists and project managers worked closely with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Missouri Department of Conservation to determine that the best course of action would be to wait for the eagles to leave the nest, and then remove it before the eagles returned in December to start the next season’s nesting process.
"Eagles will reuse the same nest, but they can be very sensitive to disturbance from noise and construction activity,” said Bree McMurray, senior environmental specialist. “In this instance, private development near the proposed highway alignment meant that even if MoDOT changed the highway location, there could still be a disruption that might cause the eagles to abandon their nest.
"By removing the existing nest, the eagles can return to the lake area, but they will find a new location and build a new nest away from the construction.”
The three agencies worked together to secure a permit that allowed them to carefully remove the nest for scientific study and educational purposes.
With the help of the RIS, Inc., the development firm that owns the property, a crane was brought in on Nov. 25 and the empty nest was cut from the tree intact. It was placed in a large steel “basket” and will be stored in a secure location while MoDOT works with Conservation to prepare the nest for display. Plans for its permanent display location are still being determined.
"Changing the expressway alignment to avoid disrupting the eagle nest meant the possibility of significant project delays while right-of-way was renegotiated and new plans were designed,” said Assistant District Engineer Eric Schroeter. “This alternative allowed us to do the right thing by being environmentally and financially responsible.”
MoDOT regularly works with other federal, state, and local agencies on similar efforts to protect other species and habitats. For more information about MoDOT’s environmental efforts, visit www.modot.org or call toll-free 888-ASK-MODOT (275-6636).
Editor's Note: Click on the images below for high resolution files.
Since the eagle's nest was at approximately 50 feet into the trees, a crane was brought in to reach it. The crew gathered before sunrise to get started and the removal took about an hour.
Branches around the nest were cut back to ease removal.
MoDOT and the Department of Conservation took DNA samples from the nest so they can compare them with any eagles found in that area in the future.
For more information on the U.S. Route 54 Expressway project, visit the Camden County Major Projects page.