ST JOSEPH Mo -- Cold winter weather is arriving just in time to boost bald eagle numbers for the 32nd annual Eagle Days at the Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge.
Sub-freezing temperatures into the teens are forecast for late in the Thanksgiving holiday week. Cold weather pushes migrating waterfowl southward, and bald eagles follow as they prey on sick and injured birds.
So a cold snap should boost eagle numbers at Squaw Creek on Dec. 4 and Dec. 5 when the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) host Eagle Days.
“We’ll be gaining eagles every day with this kind of weather,” said Ron Bell, refuge manager. “The fewest we’ve ever had for Eagle Days were 50 and the most was in the hundreds.”
Visitors can see wild bald eagles flying over wetlands or perched in trees by taking a driving tour of the refuge near Mound City, Mo., about 30 miles north of St. Joseph. MDC and refuge staff members will be stationed at prime spots for eagle viewing and spotting scopes will be available.
But there will also be live eagle presentations in the refuge visitor center by staff from the Dickerson Park Zoo. Those programs will begin on the hour from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 4, and from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 5.
All of the Eagle Days viewing activities and the captive eagle programs are free.
The Friends of Squaw Creek will have a nature shop and a food booth at headquarters, while the Midland Empire Audubon Society will be selling bird seed and feeders. There will also be a display celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge. The visitor center and displays will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 a.m. each day.
The headquarters and refuge are three miles west of I-29 on Missouri 159.
Parking space is limited at headquarters. So on Dec. 4, Eagle Days attendees are urged to take advantage of free parking at the Squaw Creek Eagle Nest Plaza just off I-29 at Exit 79, which is the interchange with Missouri 159. Shuttle buses will run continuously to ferry visitors to the Eagle Days activities and back to the parking lot. The parking shuttle buses will not be available on Dec. 5.
On both days, tour buses will be available to take visitors through the refuge to see wild eagles and waterfowl.
Bell said the snow geese flocks usually peak in numbers before Thanksgiving. But due to mild weather in early November, the peak for geese numbers this year will likely be in December. Besides eagles and waterfowl, visitors can also see other wildlife at the refuge such as white-tail deer.
For more information, contact Squaw Creek at 660-442-3187, or the MDC at 816-271-3100.