Standley Lake baby bald eagle SL1 dies after nest collapse — The Know

Fans of the famous Standley Lake bald eagles are mourning the demise of the eaglet known as SL1, which was killed after a fall Thursday when the aging cottonwood supporting its nest split down the middle. The nest fell to the ground, and SL1 was found dead a few feet away.

The eagle will be buried in accordance with local Indigenous tribe rituals with a “sacred ceremony in a blessed burial site located in Rocky Mountain Arsenal and National Wildlife Refuge,” according to a post on Standley Lake’s Facebook page.

“There’s been outpouring support from all of the fans and people who watch these eagles regularly,” Lexie Sierra-Martinez, a Standley Lake Regional Park naturalist, said Friday. “On the Standley Lake (Facebook) page, we’re getting a lot of engagement, and we’re really grateful for everyone who reached out. Staff was obviously very devastated yesterday. We shared many tears together. It was comforting to know that there were people reaching out to us. Our phones were ringing off the hook.”

SL1 hatched the first week of April. Four the past four years, fans have watched Standley Lake eagles via a video camera installed by the City of Westminster that streamed live footage of the nest around the clock. When Sierra-Martinez didn’t see the nest on the camera around noon on Thursday, she remotely pointed the camera down and located the nest on the ground.

Sierra-Martinez said the tree was old and decayed. Weather conditions were breezy when the incident occurred, but not especially windy.

“We’ve had a lot of harsh weather the past few months, so it seems like it was going to happen eventually,” Sierra-Martinez said. “We didn’t realize that, obviously, or we would have taken precautions, but it just seemed to snap out of nowhere. Nothing really caused it.”

The nest was originally built by eagles in 1993, but it had been since reinforced by park rangers.

“It had metal reinforcements within the actual nest, and it had a 2×4 that had it supported against the trunk, but the whole tree ripped down the middle,” Sierra-Martinez said.

SL1 is not the only local eaglet to die this year after a fall: In April, two eagle eggs at Barr Lake State Park were destroyed when the tree holding the nest collapsed and the eggs were found under water.

The story of the Standley Lake eagles drew added attention last year when F420 attacked Mom, the female who had been living in the nest. Mom fled, never to be seen again, and F420 began a relationship with the male of the nest, known as Dad. Mom had already laid eggs that did not hatch. Eventually, F420 gave birth to two new eggs, only one of which was viable.

On Thursday, park rangers rushed to the scene when they realized the nest had fallen.

“We were very, very worried and very scared,” Sierra-Martinez said. “We had hope. We grabbed the bin we usually get when we rescue wildlife. We had full intentions of taking it to the Birds of Prey Rehabilitation Center, if we could transport it. We were really optimistic that it would be OK, and we just needed to be fast-acting.”

The cause of death isn’t known, but park rangers suspect the eaglet’s death was caused by the fall. SL1 could not fly yet. Its first flight wasn’t expected to take place until late summer, an event its fans were eagerly anticipating.

Fans of the eagles are openly mourning the eaglet on the park’s Facebook page and groups dedicated to the eagle cam.

“I am literally crying over this loss!” one woman commented on the park’s Facebook page. “I have been following SL1 since hatching and I am devastated by this news. Thank you for all that you do and to those working so hard to protect future nests at Standley Lake!”

“This is incredibly sad,” wrote another, posting on the independent Standley Lake Eagle Cam Facebook Group page. “SL1 was a tiny spark of daily hope and pleasure which I looked forward to each day. My heart is broken.”

The burial site at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal was set aside for eagle burials by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in collaboration with Native American tribes with ancestral ties to the area. Those tribes include the Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, the Oglala Lakota and Southern Utes. Its purpose is to handle eagle remains in accordance with tribal practice. SL1 will be cremated before its burial ceremony.

According to a news feature on the burial site distributed by the Fish and Wildlife Service, the repository at the arsenal receives the remains of 3,300 eagles annually. The site was blessed in a Native American ceremony in 2019. During that ceremony, a pair of bald eagles flew overhead and circled the site. As the ceremony ended, five eagles could be seen flying off in the distance.

Standley Lake Park officials say they plan to restore “a safe and secure home” for F420 and Dad.

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