An eagle rests in the branches of a tree along the Roaring Fork River in Glenwood Springs.

Study supports Aspen Glen eagle buffer zone

Observers also saw bears, bobcat, elk, mule deer and other wildlife utilizing the area

April 20, 2023

A report from a local ecologist shows the continuous presence of eagles within a buffer zone located along the Roaring Fork River at the Aspen Glen neighborhood between Glenwood Springs and Carbondale. In October of 2021, the Garfield County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) rejected a request to remove the protective zone, which was in place to safeguard nesting eagles in the area.

Ecologist Delia Malone, representing Roaring Fork Audubon, told the board that since it ruled to maintain the buffer zone, eagles, black bears, bobcats, herons, other bird species, and large ungulates, including elk and mule deer, have been observed living within the area. Roaring Fork Audubon monitored the site “year-round to understand the value and the need.”

“Aspen Glen residents indicated that the riparian habitat surrounding the ancestral nest site continued to provide foraging habitat that was essential to the survivability of the bald eagles,” she said. “Monitoring was conducted once a week from Jan. 17, 2022, until we finished on Jan. 17, 2023.”

A team of volunteers took part in the monitoring at four different locations to ensure a wide net was cast to capture an accurate picture of wildlife at the site. Eagles that were actively utilizing the area for perching, foraging, eating, and preening, were recorded, while ones simply flying overhead were not, Malone said.

“A flyover was not considered ‘using the zone,’” she said.

The board had determined that the eagle buffer zone was valuable, despite the original nesting birds having moved on.

“Both mule deer and elk use the eagle nest buffer zone extensively. Mule deer use the area year-around, and elk use the area intensely in winter and spring,” Malone said.

While this observation phase of the study is complete, Malone said the participating birders are committed to continuing the data collection going forward.

“One of the most fulfilling sights to see is a bird of prey, especially an eagle, swoop down and snag a big fish,” said Commissioner Mike Samson. “I have seen that twice and feel very fortunate.”

“It’ll turn you into a bald eagle lover right away,” Malone added.