David Hancock stands near the Surrey bald eagle preserve Friday morning. His team will build the framework for an eagle nest in the preserve later this month. (Aaron Hinks photo)

Eagle tree cut down legally a 1st for B.C. city

Planned eagle preserve ‘a first for City of Surrey’

An eagle tree was cut down in South Surrey this week to make way for “The Eagles” townhome project.

However, officials with developer Dawson & Sawyer and the City of Surrey say an agreement has been made with the province and city to set aside a half-acre parcel of land for a bald eagle preserve and build the framework for a nest for the returning eagles.

The project, according to the developer’s website, is “situated directly on a Bald Eagle conservation area,” and is to feature 93 townhomes, located near 0 Avenue and 172 Street.

Dawson & Sawyer removed the eagle tree, under permit, Aug. 16.

Sam Hooge, of Dawson & Sawyer, told Peace Arch News by email Friday that the multi-government agreement, which was originally proposed by biologist David Hancock of the Hancock Wildlife Foundation, had been in the works for the past two years.

Hooge said the preserve, located across the street from the fallen eagle tree, has dozens of mature trees, and that additional trees will be planted to ensure its long-term success.

Hancock called the bald eagle preserve the first of its kind for the City of Surrey.

The hope is that once the pair of eagles return from their yearly migration, they will use the framework to build a new nest, Hancock told PAN while visiting the site with a reporter Friday.

Hancock, who has been monitoring the eagles nesting in that area for the past 30 years, has built more than 20 nests throughout the Lower Mainland, which have seen a 100 per cent success rate.

He said Friday that the eagle tree was supposed to be cut down last year, but that it was left alone to enable the construction of houses closest to the eagle preserve to be finished.

“The developers said OK, we’ll hold off a second year on this new nest. And then, this year, as soon as the birds leave the area, two things will happen. We will cut down that nest and we will go in and build a new nest,” Hancock said.

Hancock said he and his team will build the new nest framework Aug. 28. The eagles are expected to return in October.

“The nest that was removed was located on a branch deemed to have a high risk of failure for the short term. Dawson & Sawyer worked closely with David Hancock to create a plan for a replacement nest to be built,” Hooge wrote to PAN.

Hancock said that it’s nearly impossible to get approval to cut down a tree that has an eagle nest.

“It is. It all came about because of the agreement between the developer, myself coming up with the proposal, and the City of Surrey saying ‘yes, lets build a preserve and have a nest in it’” Hancock said.

Surrey environment manager Stephen Godwin said the city encourages the development community to respect regulated animals in the city.

“I think the developer did a responsible thing,” Godwin said.

Hancock said that Dawson & Sawyer has invested about $15,000 for Hancock to install two cameras that will watch over the new nest. Hancock has installed similar cameras, which live-stream eagle-nest activity, throughout the Lower Mainland. They can be viewed at hancockwildlife.org

Positioning the cameras can be a bit problematic, Hancock noted.

“Eagles poop when they’re in the nest, and they can fire their business about eight feet horizontally. And, in fact, they can elevate it up three feet,” he said.

The trick, he said, is finding a branch to place the camera so the lens doesn’t get “slathered” with the feces.

Thursday’s tree removal was the second involving a South Surrey eagle nest in recent weeks.

Last month, the City of Surrey was forced to cut down one of the “most noticeable eagle’s nests in Surrey,” at the corner of Croydon Drive and 20 Avenue, after it was partially cut without a permit.

The city opened an investigation after it removed the cottonwood tree.

Hancock, who also supervised the removal of that tree, said whoever initially damaged it left the cottonwood “hanging on by two inches of wood.”

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