Monument closes area to keep hikers from nest of golden eagle
Lower Monument Canyon Trail remains open in Colorado National Monument, but off-trail exploring and climbing near a golden eagle’s nest is off-limits for at least the next few weeks and possibly several months.
The nest, discovered recently by a monument visitor, can be seen from the trail and is perched on a ledge about 60 to 100 feet above the canyon floor on a rock wall northeast of Independence Monument. Signs alert hikers the section is closed to climbing and trips off the trail.
Volunteers and staff will be present on the trail as much as possible to discuss the closure and encourage hikers to be quiet near the nest to avoid scaring the birds, according to monument Superintendent Joan Anzelmo.
Anyone who ventures into the closed area could be subject to a $5,000 fine or a sentence of up to six months in jail.
The nest will be monitored for egg hatching and movement from the nest. That behavior will determine when the closure will be lifted, but for now it’s tentatively set through Sept. 1.
The monument is home to 54 songbirds and nine raptor species that breed in the area, including golden eagles. The rarity of this particular nest, Anzelmo said, is just that its location is easy for visitors to spot.
“It’s just a wonderful thing to share with the public,” Anzelmo said.
Paul Didier, a member of the local chapter of the National Audubon Society, said golden eagles aren’t a rare sight in the monument or elsewhere in the Grand Valley, especially during winter. Although the monument isn’t one of the more productive areas Didier frequents to find birds, he said there is a constant supply of different species to watch in the Grand Valley.
“We’ve lived all over the country and always keep a list of birds we see from our house, and we’ve seen 82 species from our location. That’s the highest number we’ve seen,” he said.
Golden eagles lay one to three eggs and incubate them for 41 to 45 days. Eaglets usually leave the nest nine to 11 weeks after hatching.
This may not be the only year spectators get a chance to see the nest above Monument Canyon Trail active. The parents of baby golden eagles sometimes reuse a nest year after year or rotate between a number of nests.