Woods and Waters An outdoor blog by John McCoy

Eagles eerily absent this year

Hurtin' in W.Va.

For the past four years, part of my summer vacation has been spent on rail tours of West Virginia’s South Branch valley, particularly the 5-mile section known as “The Trough.”

There are no roads into the area. The only ways in are by rail or by canoe. The scenery is spectacular. The fishing is great.

The best things about those trips, though, was the number of bald eagles I saw. In five trips through The Trough, I averaged seeing seven to eight eagles per trip.

Until today.

My family and I took a dinner train from Moorefield through The Trough to a whistle stop called Sector and back. Along the way we saw exactly one eagle.

If this had been an ordinary year, I’d just pass the lack of eagles off to happenstance. This year, though, has been a rough one for Mountain State eagles. Since spring, four have been shot and killed. Two of those birds were found in or near The Trough.

This raises a question: Has someone declared war on West Virginia’s eagles? I certainly hope not.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is investigating the kills. Here’s hoping they find the perpetrators — and bring the full weight of the federal Bald Eagle Protection Act to bear against them.