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Feb. 16, 2011

Pilots Cautioned to Stay Clear of Eagle Nests

AUSTIN – Ultralight aircraft pilots have been soaring too close to an America bald eagle nest on the Llano River between Burnet and Llano, according to Game Warden Kevin Webb.

“One pilot spotted by bird watchers has already paid a $565 fine including court costs for disturbing the nest of a non-game bird,” Webb said. “And we’re actively investigating another case where a witness got a photograph of an ultralight flying way too close to the nest.”

A popular eagle viewing site, the nest is at the top of a giant pecan tree 8 miles east of Llano on State Highway 29, about 80 yards off the right of way. The nest currently contains two adult eagles and one eaglet, the warden said.

Webb said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s guideline is that no aircraft should operate within 1000 feet horizontally or vertically of an eagle’s nest.

“But that’s just a guideline, not a law,” he said. “However, we do have a state law against disturbing the eggs, nest or young of a non-game bird. That’s a class C misdemeanor, and in some cases, it can be a Class A misdemeanor.”

The warden said he believes ultralight pilots are flying within a few hundred feet of the nest to get photographs of its occupants.

“We don’t think they are deliberately trying to harass these threatened birds, but that’s what happens when they fly too close to a nest. There’s a real danger to that eaglet especially.”

Anyone who sees an aircraft flying close to the nest should contact the Llano County Sheriff’s Office at 325-247-5767 or the Operation Game Thief hotline, 800-792-GAME (4263) and try to photograph it if they can so charges could be filed against the pilot.

“Of course, we’d always prefer to have voluntary compliance,” Webb said. “Anyone who wants a good photo of an eagle should do what everyone else does and go to the viewing area off the highway with a zoom lens on their camera.”


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