New SeaDoc Society short film soars with bald Eagles

By Justin Cox

Communications and Marketing Manager, SeaDoc Society

The Orcas Island-based nonprofit SeaDoc Society just released a 20-minute film on bald eagles in the Salish Sea. This is the latest episode in SeaDoc’s adventure science documentary series, Salish Sea Wild, and it was one of the wildest they’ve ever filmed.

The film begins with the mystery of a bald eagle swimming in the sea and facing down a herd of hungry sea lions. It ends on a wild note when an eagle decides that wildlife veterinarian Joe Gaydos’s hand looks like a salmon and takes a bite. (Note: no animals were harmed, except maybe Gaydos!)

The film, shot and directed by Bob Friel, looks at the successes and challenges of the Salish Sea’s resident bald eagle population, including the fact that their numbers are dwarfed each winter when 35-50,000 eagles swoop down from Alaska and Northern Canada to compete with them for salmon and other prey.

“We’re so fortunate today in the San Juan Islands to have a very healthy population of bald eagles,” said Friel. “It’s easy to forget that just 50 years ago they were nearly extinct in the Lower 48. It’s been thrilling in this film to take a close look at these awesome birds, their wild behaviors, and their place in a complex Salish Sea ecosystem. It also makes for some fun TV when nearly every wild animal we meet tries to take a bite out of Joe!”

Gaydos heads out on British Columbia’s Harrison River to check out the eagles feeding on the banks and the salmon spawning down below. He then joins researchers to put trackers on a few juvenile eagles to study whether they’re finding enough natural food and if they’re putting extra pressure on our troubled seabird populations.

“Bald eagle recovery is a huge conservation success story, and one to be celebrated,” said Gaydos. “But the recovered eagle population also reminds us we have more work to do recovering other species, like salmon.”

Salish Sea Wild is part of SeaDoc Society’s mission to preserve a healthy local ecosystem by conducting impactful science and using it to educate and involve the public and policy makers. Past episodes include SeaDoc’s work with Southern Resident Killer Whales, salmon, octopuses, tufted puffins and more.

You can subscribe for new episodes at seadocsociety.org/newsletter or on the SeaDoc Society Youtube channel or browse the archive at salishseawild.org.

Bald eagle episode: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_pwChwbU_gU