Eagles’ Nest and Wesbrook Place Development
UPDATE: On June 30th, Diamond Head submitted a permit application to the Province to cone the established nest. This permit was approved by the Province on September 2nd. The cone will be placed on the established nest on September 14th. Diamond Head have confirmed that the Province requires the cone to be installed by September 15th.
UBC Properties Trust (UBCPT) has for the past 15 years been implementing the Wesbrook Place Neighbourhood Plan, now a vibrant neighbourhood with over 8,000 residents. Over the past several years, new residential homes have been built in proximity to a bald eagle nest located within a stand of trees along Ross Drive. The nest was apparently abandoned for some years and then nesting activity by a young eagle pair was observed in about 2016.
In 2017, UBCPT hired qualified and experienced biologists at Diamond Head Consulting to prepare a “Protected Species Management Plan” to prescribe construction practices that would minimize impacts to this nest. This consultant team monitored construction activities, noise levels and other potential disturbance factors during the construction of nearby Georgia Point and Oakwood. This nest has been occupied during nesting season annually throughout this construction activity and subsequent occupancy of these buildings.
The Provincial “Guidelines for Raptor Protection during Urban and Rural Land Development” identify bald eagles as a “not at risk” species with a “moderate to high” ability to coexist with human landscapes, and measures are prescribed to protect eagle nests from disturbance. UBCPT has been working with biologists from Diamond Head, project developers and contractors, provincial biologists, and a local non-profit organization (Hancock Wildlife Foundation) to determine how to best minimise impacts to nesting activity.
Development that will take place adjacent to the east of this nest includes a multi-residential development and an elementary school. It has been recommended by the raptor expert at the Ministry of Forests, that this nest be temporarily closed during construction. During this time the eagles could build a new nest or adopt the alternate nest that has been constructed for them. This plan would involve placement of a temporary metal cone over the original nest to protect the nest and redirect nesting activity during construction. This cone would be removed after construction is complete.
UBCPT engaged David Hancock of the Hancock Foundation, a recognized raptor expert, to assist with implementing this strategy. Hancock has used this relocation method successfully in other locations. They have constructed the alternate nest and have fabricated a metal cone.
A permit to install the cone in the original nest was issued by the Ministry of Forests in early September 2022. The nest is not currently occupied as the 2022 nesting season has ended. In order to precede the 2023 nesting season the cone must be installed in September. Biologists will be monitoring the eagle activity in the area while the cone is in place.
Why does a cone need to be placed on this eagle’s nest?
The established eagle’s nest is located within proximity of future development sites: Lot 6 and the elementary school site. This construction activity could impact the eagle’s nesting activity—the coning aims to protect the established nest and redirect the nesting activity to a temporary alternate nest. The cone will be removed after construction is complete.
There is no academic research to support coning a nest so why is this being done?
UBC Properties Trust is following recommendations by Diamond Head Consulting and Hancock Wildlife Foundation to cone this nest. Their advice is that it is the best option to protect nesting activity during future construction in the area. The Hancock Wildlife Foundation has successfully employed this technique locally and, along with the Provincial raptor experts and Diamond Head, have stated it is the best step.
Why does development need to proceed?
Lot 6, adjacent to the established nesting tree, is due to commence construction, creating 231 homes. The development of this site is part of the long-term evolution of the campus.
Why are we coning now instead of next year?
Eagles fly north to Alaska for the salmon run from early August to mid-late September and can return to their nesting trees as early as mid-September. Eagles can become distressed if they see humans in and around their nest, so any work completed near the nest must be done before September 15. This date was provided to us by the Province. Construction is planned to start within the noise buffer of the established nest prior to August 2023; therefore, the nest needs to be coned. Cone installation before their return also maximizes the time available to the eagles to improve the temporary alternate nest or identify and build a new one.
How will the construction impact the eagles?
If the eagles return before the cone is placed, encounter construction activities, and be subsequently scared off the nest while they are in the process of re-establishing for the 2022-2023 breeding season, it would likely cause complete and permanent abandonment of the original nest, effectively negating any efforts to protect the pair of eagles nesting in this area. UBCPT, the Province and the wildlife experts are not in favour of risking this occurrence.
How was the temporary alternate nest location chosen?
The provincial biologist, Diamond Head Consulting biologists and representatives from Hancock Wildlife Foundation walked the area within 300m of the established nest tree to locate a suitable alternate location. The selected tree was chosen because of its moderate health and structure value, high retention value, location within 300m of the established nest and the presence of a crotch located 20m from the ground. This crotch provides an extensive enough area to accommodate a platform and provide access for the eagles. The alternate nest tree is located close enough for the eagle pair to find and access and is also located away from any other known eagle nests in the area. Adjacent to this tree, there are trees large enough for perching with clear sight lines.
Why is there such short consultation or notification period of the coning of this nest?
Diamond Head Consulting submitted a permit application to the Ministry of Forests on June 30, 2022. The Province approved this permit on September 2nd, 2022. UBCPT had considered whether to install the cone this year, but it was clear that construction was scheduled to proceed on Lot 6 in 2023, therefore, to ensure we protect the established nest and the eagle’s nesting activities in this area, we followed recommendations from the wildlife experts and requirements by the Province to proceed to cone the established nest. The coning of the nest is to occur on September 14 as the deadline to install the cone is September 15 per the Province.
Could we wait to see how the Eagles respond to the nearby construction without the need of coning the nest?
While we appreciate that this may be a preference, it has been thoughtfully considered that leaving the nest as-is is not in the best interests of the eagles. With construction due to commence in early 2023 coning the nest now was the only option to ensure the nest is protected and the nesting activity of the eagles continues in this area.