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San Bernardino National Forest welcomes baby bald eagle

March 8, 2012 |  4:00 pm

Baby bald eagle Jack, right
A baby bald eagle named Jack is creating buzz among biologists and bird-watchers alike in the San Bernardino National Forest as the first recorded chick ever to be successfully nested near Big Bear Lake. 

Biologists from the U.S. Forest Service say that bald eagles have been moving farther south to nest, but no one expected Jack to arrive, as he did Feb. 11.

Forest Service biologist Marc Stamer was apparently the first to spot the baby bird at least 10 days after he was hatched. Stamer was leading a field trip around Big Bear Lake with a group of third-graders when he spotted Jack -- the park's eighth and newest eagle.   

“I’ve studied bald eagles here for almost 23 years,” said Forest Service biologist Robin Eliason. “This is the first time I’ve ever seen a chick. It’s a pretty big deal.”

Officials are so excited about Jack that they are extending the forest’s annual seasonal closure to June 15 to help protect him.

Officials said the forest will close a picnic area, two trails and the area around the eagle’s nest “to allow the chick to grow and learn to fly without human disturbance.” Eliason said that once news of the baby hits popular bird-watcher phone hotlines, the Forest Service expects a spike in visitors.

“We’ve been keeping it a little bit quiet while we were getting everything in place to protect the nest,” Eliason said. “We’ve got a lot of volunteers to help, and they’re very excited. Once the newspaper articles happen, we’re expecting people to come and look at them.”

The chick is named Jack in honor of a deceased former eagle count volunteer, according to the release. Jack’s parents, Lucy and Ricky, built a nest several years ago but had not laid an egg until January.   

The country’s symbolic bird was one of the first animals protected under the federal Endangered Species Act of 1973. The bald eagle was removed from the list in 2007 but remains a “fully protected species” by the state of California.  

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-- Matt Stevens

Twitter.com/mattstevenslat

Photo: Baby bald eagle Jack, right, in his nest. Credit: Robin Eliason / U.S. Forest Service

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