Study of Eagles on the Lower Sebasticook
SRLT is very much concerned with the need Sebasticook Regional Land Trust has joined forces with Biodiversity Research Institute to raise awareness of the ecological values of the Lower Sebasticook River. While valued locally for its scenic, economic, and recreational importance, the Sebasticook is also one of Maine’s and the Atlantic Coast’s most unique and valuable ecological hotspots.
It’s uniqueness stems from the abundance of fish in its waters resulting from a series of dam removals over the last 20 years. Each spring, millions of river herring (alewives, Alosa pseudoharengus and blueback herring, Alosa aestivalis) migrate from the ocean up the Kennebec River and into the Lower Sebasticook, destined for freshwater spawning areas in the watershed’s lakes and streams.
Bald Eagles, and numerous other wildlife species, are attracted to the Sebasticook by the record-setting migration of river herring that swim upstream and return downstream during a relatively confined period. Because of dam removals and effective restoration efforts, the Sebasticook currently hosts the largest river herring fishery along the Atlantic coast.
5.3 million river herring were counted passing through upstream at the Benton Falls dam fishway in 2018. This massive pulse of fish benefits the ecosystem in many ways, but the most conspicuous benefactors during the fish run are Bald Eagles.
A 2014 study by Biodiversity Research Institute and Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife determined that this short river stretch likely hosts the largest summer aggregation of Bald Eagles in the Northeastern U.S., and is therefore one of the most important resources for the Bald Eagle population in the broader region. BRI has partnered with Sebasticook Regional Land Trust and US Fish & Wildlife Service to use eagle hotspots, as identified during the 2014study, to prioritize conservation needs providing landowners with much needed resources to protect and conserve riverfront habitat critical to a number of key watershed species. Public education materials will be
developed to raise awareness of this ecological gem situated right here in our backyard.
This work on the Lower Sebasticook is funded in part by a grant from the American Eagle Foundation (www.eagles.org).