Peering into a six-foot wide bald eagle nest, you'd expect to see eggs or maybe even the majestic birds themselves. The last thing you'd expect: A sleeping black bear cub having his very own Goldilocks moment.
That's exactly what the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service discovered at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska, during a recent wildlife study helicopter fly-by.
According to a May 2023 study by the wildlife service, a pair of eagles had an egg in this nest. However, the male and female eagles were seen outside the nest with their egg left in the cold. Typically the male takes over when the female leaves, especially in colder temperatures, but that did not happen.
The leader of the eagle nest survey Stephen B. Lewis, told LiveScience, "It wasn't clear if the nesting attempt had failed or if the female was just taking a break from incubating."
When they then flew the helicopter over months later, Lewis was surprised to see an entirely different kind of baby animal: "At first, my mind was trying to make it into a baby eagle...perhaps with its wings spread or something," Lewis told the Anchorage Daily News. "Then I realized it was a small bear sleeping there."
Based on the nests new inhabitant, the UFWS now suspects the incubation process failed before the bear made it his prime napping spot.
Black bears climbing into an eagle's nest isn't novel. Often, it's because they want to eat the eggs; black bears will raid the nests with predictably bad results for the nesting eagles, the USFWS shared in their Facebook post.
In this case, Lewis speculated that the bear was attracted to a lingering fish smell, or he could have been avoiding a brown bear.
Another possibility Lewis threw out was the bear "could have just happened to climb the tree and decided to take a nap."
Alaska is home to over 100,000 black bears. Bald eagles are a protected species after their numbers plummeted in the 1970s. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game estimates that between 100,000-150,000, bald eagles live in the state, mostly in the southeast.
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