Interactions between eagles and humans in the James River Bald Eagle Concentration Area
The lower James River supports the largest known concentration of summering eagles in eastern North America. In recent years, both the number of eagles using the river and their distribution along the shoreline appear to have increased substantially. At the same time, an increase in the human population surrounding the lower river has lead to an increase in the use of the river for recreational activities. These trends have heightened concerns within the management community about potential interactions and conflicts between these two user populations. In the summer of 1997, an investigation was initiated to collect data for the purpose of: 1) redefining the boundaries of the James River Bald Eagle concentration area, 2) determining the current level of human use within a section of the lower James River, and 3) investigating potential interactions between the human and eagle populations during the summer months. These objectives were accomplished using a combination of an extended shoreline survey and intensive observations of humans and eagles within the heart of the historic concentration area. The James River Bald Eagle concentration area has expanded well beyond the historic survey area. Elevated numbers of eagles now extend from Jones Neck down river to Fort Eustis, a distance of 140 river kilometers that contains 235 km of primary shoreline. The peak count of 448 eagles on 11 June approaches an average of 2 birds/krn of shoreline for the entire study area. In addition to the expansion of eagles along the shoreline, an increase in both the number and distribution of sites used for nocturnal roosts was documented. Four new communal roost sites spanning the length of the study area were located.