Bald Eagle Awareness Days
Bald Eagle Awareness Days is an annual event jointly organized by the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Serivce to increase public involvement and awareness concerning bald eagles and other raptors native to South Dakota
Bald eagles are found only in North America. The bald eagle is the symbol of our nation, chosen because of its majestic and graceful appearance and its aura of power and wildness. When we realized that the bald eagle was rapidly disappearing because of human activities, a nationwide outpouring of support began to save the species. Such support was instrumental in the passage of the Bald Eagle Protection Act of 1940. Protection and recovery of rare species were strengthened with the passage of the Endangered Species Act in 1973. Conservation efforts led to the Bald Eagle being removed from the Federal Endangered species list in 2007 and from South Dakota’s State Threatened list in 2015. The bald eagle is not only our national symbol, but also a symbol of our ability to save and conserve species.
Bald Eagle Awareness Days Events
Visit gfp.sd.gov/events for future special events.
Available in January.
Donations help to bring educational and public programs to South Dakota schools and communities. Previous contributions to bring these educational representatives to South Dakota have been made by several groups, organizations, businesses and agencies.
Local raptor rehabilitation centers attempt to nurse injured raptors for eventual release back into the wild. Donations help support these goals.
Donations for the local raptor rehabilitation center in Pierre, South Dakota can be forwarded to:
Dr. Virginia Trexler-Myren
All Creatures Animal Hospital
1415 N. Harrison Ave.
Pierre, SD 57501
If you wish to make a donation to help us bring raptor educational programs to local South Dakota school children and the public, please e-mail us at Russell.A.Somsen@usace.army.mil or contact us at:
Bald Eagle Awareness Days Committee
attn: Russell Somsen
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
28563 Powerhouse Rd #105
Pierre, SD 57501
605-224-5862, ext. 3301
Bald Eagle Range
After being considered rare breeders in South Dakota, it is now much more common to see nesting pairs throughout the state. Wintering birds concentrate below Missouri River dams, in the flowing stretches of the Missouri River, and in parts of the Black Hills.
Golden Eagle Breeding Range
Golden eagles nest mainly west of the Missouri River in South Dakota. Many are year-round West River residents. Wintering and migrant birds may visit other parts of the state.
Special Places to View Bald Eagles:
Central South Dakota
- Pierre and Fort Pierre, particularly on and near the Missouri River.
- Missouri River below Oahe Dam in Stanley County. Campgrounds 1, 2 and 3 are open to foot traffic only during the winter.
Eastern South Dakota
- Karl Mundt National Wildlife Refuge in Gregory County.
- Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge (particularly migrating bald eagles).
- Anywhere East River during spring and fall migration, especially in cottonwood forests of the James and Big Sioux rivers.
Contact a South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Wildlife Conservation Officer, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employee, or another wildlife expert. Do not attempt to rehabilitate birds on your own.
Some tips for handling injured raptors:
- Please do not attempt to rehabilitate a raptor on your own. Always contact a licensed professional. If you are unsure of who to notify contact an appropriate agency in your area, such as the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), or the Department of Game, Fish and Parks.
- If you must handle or move a bird, first cover the bird with a blanket or towel to reduce its visual stimulation, and protect yourself by wearing heavy gloves and safety glasses. Then, gently fold the bird's wings into its body with your two gloved hands and gently but firmly lift the bird into a transport container. Remember: Even a seriously injured raptor is potentially dangerous. Wild birds do not understand that we are trying to help and will defend themselves. They are quite unpredictable, and you should be especially aware of their sharp beak and talons.
- The best way to transport a raptor is in a plastic dog or cat kennel, or a sturdy cardboard box. Avoid bird or wire cages as these can cause feather and soft tissue damage. The carrier should have plenty of ventilation holes and should only be slightly larger than the size of the bird. The less room an injured bird has to move around, the less likely it is to cause more injury to itself. However, if a container is too small, a bird can sustain extensive wing and feather damage.
- Never feed an injured raptor unless you have been instructed to do so by a licensed rehabilitator.
- The dietary needs of raptors are more delicately balanced than people realize. Even the juiciest steak imaginable will not provide a raptor with what it needs. Also, most injured birds are suffering from dehydration, and attempting to feed them or give them water orally may worsen their condition. If a bird has not eaten for a while, its digestive system shuts down and it cannot handle any food. At The Raptor Center, these patients are given a special fluid therapy for a day or two to jump-start their systems before any type of food is provided.
- Handle an injured raptor as little as possible. Stress resulting from human contact can reduce a bird's chance of recovery.
- Until the bird can be transferred, provide it with a dark, quiet, calm, warm environment. Darkness has a calming effect on birds. Extra care should be taken to keep the bird away from children and pets.
- Do not keep a raptor any longer than is necessary to get it to a veterinary professional, raptor rehabilitator, or state/federal wildlife representative.