Eagle tours available this winter in Oklahoma

Monday, December 10th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Pack binoculars and warm clothes. Nature centers throughout Oklahoma are offering people the chance to spot bald eagles from bridges, buses and boats this winter.

From the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge to the Chickasaw National Recreation Area, Oklahomans can sign up for tours to watch eagles hanging out here during the cold months. Eagles live in Oklahoma year round, but their numbers increase in winter as northern bald eagle migrate south.

Free driving tours run Jan. 12 through Jan. 26 at Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge near Vian. Those on the 8 a.m. tours, which last two to three hours, stop periodically to view eagles through spotting scopes.

``We saw several last year,'' said Leann Rogers, a naturalist for Lake Tenkiller State Park. ``I think we counted nine, which is a lot in this area.''

At Lake Texoma State Park, visitors who can stand a chilly wind can take bald eagle boat rides. The boat tours cost $10 per person and are 10 a.m. to noon each Saturday in January.

The park also offers self-guided eagle tours on land.

The Kaw Lake Eagle Watch allows people to view the birds at Kaw Lake, a popular hangout for bald eagles. Besides wild eagles, visitors can see two eagles that live at the Sutton Avian Research Center in Bartlesville.

The birds in captivity are 13-year-old Sequoyah, who has cataracts that prevent him from surviving in the wild, and 10-year-old Bensar, who was bred in captivity.

``Both of his parents had been injured to the point they could not be released,'' said Alan Jenkins, the research center's assistant director.

Free driving tours leave the Kaw City Community Center at 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. Jan. 19. Morning activities at the center include presentations on the history of the eagle and its habitat and the American Indian perspective of the bald eagle.

Sequoyah State Park near Wagoner also offers an eagle tour. The park is home to an eagle with an amputated wing, which will meet visitors before the 8 a.m. tour Jan. 12.

At the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge near Lawton, eagle tour participants travel by bus to a private area where wildlife is rarely disturbed. Sam Waldstein, the refuge's manager, said there is a 75 percent probability that those on the tour will see a bald or golden eagle.

The tours, which are at 1:30 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays in January, last two or three hours and cost $3. Reservations are required.

The Chickasaw National Recreation Area offers free driving tours from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jan. 12, Jan. 26 and Feb. 23.

Free tours also will be held at 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. Jan. 12 at Greenleaf State Park and at 9 a.m. Dec. 15, Jan. 12, Jan. 26, Feb. 9 and Feb. 23 at Lake Thunderbird State Park.