Bald eagle on a nest. Credit: Courtesy of Bob Duchense

In a bid to protect a local bald eagle nest, the Searsport Select Board voted Tuesday to move the location for the town’s annual Fourth of July fireworks show, though where remains unclear.

The fireworks were previously set off at Mosman Park. But residents expressed concern about using that location after two eagle chicks were found dead within a week following last year’s Fourth of July celebration.

“We want to be cautious and we’re going to be careful, so we’ll move them,” Town Manager James Gillway said. “We can not only put it to rest but let people understand why, and that we’re so committed to shooting off fireworks, we just have to find the right venue that’s far enough away.”

While the town hasn’t been presented with any concrete proof that the 2022 fireworks caused the death of the eagle chicks, the Select Board opted to take precautionary measures.

“There’s no way to know whether fireworks had an impact on that, but we’re not going to take a chance,” Town Manager James Gillway said.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommends that people avoid blasting and other loud noises within half of a mile from active nests. That’s because younger eagles may be startled by loud noises and prematurely jump from nests before they can fly.

Gillway said the town received complaints last year about the fireworks show’s impact on the eagles. Those concerns had quieted down until recently, when the board began receiving letters from residents and an employee of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

On Monday, Gillway received a letter from Thomas Wittig, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife northeast eagle coordinator, urging the board to move the date and location of the fireworks.

“Something must be done to prevent this tragedy from happening again,” Whittig wrote.

Gillway said the board subsequently decided to act quickly.

At the meeting Tuesday, Chair Doug Norman raised a motion to move the fireworks from Mosman Park, with extra stipulations that Gillway would find a new location and that the fireworks could return to Mosman Parks if the eagles relocated away from the vicinity.