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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Star of DNR eaglecam lays first egg just in time for tax season

Tuesday was the first day income tax returns could be filed, and right on cue, Minnesota's most famous eagles seem to have dropped a little reminder to brighten the perennial chore.

Sometime Jan. 20, the female star of the Minnesota DNR's eagle camera laid its first egg of the 2015 nesting season. The camera and associated technology are paid for and maintained by the DNR's Nongame Wildlife Program, largely supported by voluntary contributions people make at tax time. 

"I'm not one to ascribe human intentions to animals, but the timing of this first egg sure is an interesting coincidence," said Erica Hoaglund, DNR nongame wildlife specialist. "It's a good reminder of a rare opportunity to direct how one's taxes are spent and help something we all care about."

This is the third year that the same pair of bald eagles has been brought into thousands of homes and classrooms around the world by a small weatherproof camera mounted above their nest at an undisclosed location in the metro region.

Line 20 of Minnesota's income tax form gives people an opportunity to donate to the Nongame Wildlife Program, which works to help hundreds of species of Minnesota wildlife thrive through habitat restorations, surveys and monitoring, technical guidance, and outreach and education – critters such as bees, butterflies, songbirds, loons, frogs, turtles and bats, as well as eagles. Donations to the program are matched dollar for dollar by the Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) license plate fund. They're also tax-deductible. 

Bald eagles typically lay one to three eggs, which incubate for about 35 days before hatching. Both male and female eagles, which mate for life, take turns sitting on the eggs to keep them warm. Last year, three eggs hatched after being laid in mid-February, but only two eaglets fledged, or grew up to fly off. The year before that the pair laid three eggs around Jan. 1, and all of them froze. The female eagle has been identified by a leg band as having been rehabilitated at the University of Minnesota Raptor Center, then released back into the wild in 2010.

"We're lucky to live in a place that has such awesome natural features and outdoor recreational opportunities," Hoaglund said. "We're hoping people will get sufficiently excited watching these eagles to get out to a park and experience nature first-hand."

In 2014, nearly half a million people from all 50 states and 155 countries tuned in to the DNR's eaglecam to watch the family saga of America's iconic raptor unfold in real time. In addition to live video on DNR's website, information on the eagles' activities will be regularly posted on the Nongame Wildlife Program's Facebook page, and people can sign up for email or Twitter updates. Follow the action at: www.webcams.dnr.state.mn.us/eagle/

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