While watching Bald Eagles is a really fun thing to do, you need to be aware that these birds, like any wild animal, do not “love” humans, even though our breeding pair here seems to have adjusted to our presence quite well. It is illegal to approach their nest without express permission from Fish and Wildlife, and this is only granted in extreme circumstances. Also, those of you who would like to get closer by using a drone need to be aware of all of the laws governing the use and registration of a drone, as well as the laws specifically addressing the use of drones near eagles.

Federal law states you are not permitted to disturb an eagle by flying a drone within 660 feet. (That is more than 2 football fields away.) Not only can a drone injure an eagle in a defensive attack, the drone operator can also lose expensive equipment to a defensive attack. Ignoring this directive can result in expensive penalties under multiple federal, state and tribal laws. Under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the first criminal offense is a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine for an individual or a $200,000 fine for an organization. The second offense becomes a felony, with a maximum penalty of two years in prison and a $250,000 fine for an individual or a $500,000 fine for an organization. The act also provides for maximum civil penalties of $5,000 for each violation.

In addition, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) says you’re not allowed to fly a drone within 1,000 of a nest during the nesting season. (That is over 3 football fields away.) This would result in penalties over and above the Federal ones mentioned above.

Unfortunately, we caught a drone hovering over our eagle pair much closer than 660 feet. This has been reported to FWC. Any future sightings will be called in immediately. If you or anyone you know has used, or plans to use, a drone to try to get closer to the eagles, please be aware that this is illegal, and it will be reported. If you suspect a violation of the regulations protecting bald eagles, report it to FWC’s Wildlife Alert Program. Potential violations can be reported by calling 888-404-3922 or by submitting information online.