Take Pictures but Just Don't Feed the Bald Eagles

Homer, Alaska, bans eagle feeding as the predator packs the coastal area.

ByABC News
February 10, 2009, 10:15 PM

June 28, 2007 — -- Homer, Alaska, may be the one place on Earth where bald eagles rule, and some humans are beginning to feel endangered.

It is a place where the majestic symbol of America can be found on movie theaters, cars, and light posts; there are dozens at a time on rooftops. They sometimes collide with traffic and are accused of stealing pets out of yards.

Unlike the rest of the country, where the bald eagle nearly went extinct until recently (they've since been removed from the government's Endangered Species Act), they have always been abundant in Alaska.

But it's so bad in this coastal town, 110 miles from Anchorage, that some people have resorted to shooting bald eagles. "Yes, some people are doing it," retired federal biologist Ed Bailey told ABC's Neil Karlinsky.

Bailey said the eagle has become a town menace, but it's an opinion 82-year-old Jean Keene, known around here as the "eagle lady," does not share.

She feeds the nearly 15-pound birds raw fish every day during the winter and has seen the population grow from about five 20 years ago to a daily average of 150, sometimes hundreds more.

The eagles come to see her, and despite her town's grievance with overcrowding she thinks it's fine to encourage their arrival.

"If they're fed in a safe place and the right kind of food, I see nothing wrong with it," Keane said.

While the eagle has always flourished in Alaska, it's nothing like what happens in Homer.

"This place is unique in the world in that we have access to eagles, and an amazing access to them that you don't get anywhere else," said photographer Greg Baer.

If you've seen close-up photographs of bald eagles with fish in their beaks, odds are they were taken right in this town. While it is spectacular to have that kind of access to these birds, critics say it comes with a heavy price.

They say it's dangerous to have so many predators in one small area. So, in a controversial move, the city council has banned eagle feeding including the kind that has allowed even amateur photographers to get fantastic close-up action.