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Restrictions in place as bald eagle breeding season begins

Outdoor recreationists, pilots, drone operators asked to avoid nesting areas. (Photo/AZGFD)

Outdoor recreationists, pilots, drone operators asked to avoid nesting areas. (Photo/AZGFD)

Arizona’s bald eagles are back, and they will soon be preparing for the next generation of eagles at breeding sites statewide.

To assist with the state’s continued bald eagle population growth, the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) encourages outdoor recreationists, aircraft pilots, drone operators and motorized paragliders to do their part by not disturbing the state’s 94 eagle breeding areas.

To protect breeding attempts, some portions of public land and water areas will be temporarily closed to help these majestic animals and ensure even more young eagles take to the skies this spring.

“Arizona’s bald eagles are hard at work preparing their nest for what we hope will be a productive breeding season,” said Kenneth “Tuk” Jacobson, bald eagle management coordinator. “The birds nest, forage and roost at rivers and lakes that are also popular recreation spots. That’s why we must be vigilant to help protect the birds and ensure their populations statewide continue to flourish. That success wouldn’t be possible without the cooperation of outdoor recreationists who respect the closures during the breeding season.”

During the 2022 breeding season, 78 young hatched, and 61 reached the important milestone of their first flight, known as fledging.

Pilots are reminded to maintain the FAA-recommended 2,000-foot above ground level advisory when flying over bald eagle habitat, while drones and paragliders are asked to avoid the areas completely. Bald eagles are sensitive to even short durations of low-flying aircraft activity near their nests, and just a few minutes of disturbance can lead to a nesting failure.

Airspace Advisory - Statewide

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has established a 2,000-foot above ground level (AGL) advisory along the Salt and Verde river drainages and lakes such as Lake Pleasant, Roosevelt Lake and Alamo Lake. These areas are designated on the Phoenix Sectional Aeronautical map and also include Alamo Lake, Ashurst Lake, Greer Lakes, Crescent Lake, Luna Lake, Show Low Lake, Chevelon Canyon Lake, Woods Canyon Lake, Lake Mary, Dogtown Reservoir, White Horse Lake and the Bill Williams National Wildlife Refuge. Special brochures for pilots regarding this advisory can be obtained by calling the Arizona Department of Transportation or AZGFD's Terrestrial Wildlife branch at 623-236-7506.

Seasonal Closure — Verde River

• A closure for the Verde River below Sycamore Canyon Wilderness is not planned this year unless the eagle pair resumes nesting. Verde River below Sycamore Canyon Wilderness may be closed to foot and vehicle entry from Dec. 1 to June 15. Floating through is allowed, but contact the Coconino National Forest, Red Rock Ranger District office for more information at 928-203-7500 or 928-203-2900.

• Verde River near Chasm Creek is closed to foot and vehicle entry from Dec. 1 to June 30. Floating through is allowed. Contact the Prescott National Forest, Verde Ranger District, at 928-567-4121.

• Verde River near Cold Water Creek, allows watercraft to float through but no stopping on the river or landing is allowed Dec. 1 to June 30. Contact the Prescott National Forest, Verde Ranger District, at 928-567-4121.

• Verde River upstream of the East Verde confluence is closed to vehicle and foot entry from Dec. 1 to June 30. Floating through is allowed, but no stopping in the river or landing is allowed. Contact the Tonto National Forest, Cave Creek Ranger District, at 480-595-3300.

• Verde River near Mule Shoe Bend allows watercraft to float through but no stopping in the river or landing is allowed from Dec. 1 to June 30. Contact the Tonto National Forest, Cave Creek Ranger District, at 480-595-3300.

• Verde River below Bartlett Dam is closed to foot or vehicle entry from Dec. 1 to June 30. Floating through is allowed, but no stopping in the river or landing is allowed. Contact the Tonto National Forest, Cave Creek Ranger District, at 480-595-3300.

• Verde River at the Needle Rock Recreation Area is closed to foot and vehicle entry on portions of the west side of the river from Dec. 1 to June 30. Floating through is allowed, but no stopping in the river or landing on the east side of the river is allowed. Contact the Tonto National Forest, Cave Creek Ranger District, at 480-595-3300.

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