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Biologist wants pole to replace tree that was illegally destroyed in July, bringing a nest down with it.

A pair of eagles that will likely soon be returning to South Surrey after their annual migration will find the tree that housed their large nest has been cut down.

The cottonwood tree at Croydon Drive and 20th Avenue was sawed nearly all the way through in July by an unknown vandal, which gave City of Surrey arborists no choice but to remove it.

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Now, a group of concerned citizens and organizations are urging the city to erect a tall pole on which the returning eagles can build a new nest, but the clock is ticking.

“We need to have it up before the eagles come back from their migration and they come back generally in early October,” said David Hancock, a biologist who has studied eagles for decades.

A group gathered Sunday afternoon at the site of the destroyed tree to show their concern for the eagles and their habitat, calling on the city and the province to put up a nesting pole.

“This was a very famous South Surrey bald eagle nest,” said David Hancock, a biologist who has studied eagles for decades.

“It was visible to anyone driving Highway 99 going into the states … It’s been there for quite a number of years and is a treasure of the community.”

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Eagles have recovered from the brink of extinction in the early 1960s, when there were just three pairs found in the lower Fraser Valley. Today, Hancock estimates there are more than 500 nesting pairs breeding in the valley, but he says their habitat is being destroyed at an alarming rate.

“Surrey has been a developers’ paradise. [They] disregard everything to make a buck. People are tired and fed up with it,” he said.

The city is investigating the vandalization and is “in discussions with the property owner and their environmental consultant about the eagles’ nest tree,” Nadia Chan, manager of trees and landscapes for Surrey, said Sunday in an email.

Hancock is optimistic the city will erect a nesting pole, similar to those that have been successful in other areas.

“I had nine pairs [of eagles] this year nesting on power poles. That’s not a desirable entity,” he said. “But they’re nesting on power poles because they’ve removed all their trees. That’s a statement of their desperation.”

Hancock believes a developer is responsible for the destruction of the tree — which he estimates was about 64 years old — and wants to see charges laid.

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“I’ve never met a roving band of guys with six-foot chainsaws just randomly cutting down eagles’ nests,” he said.

It is illegal in British Columbia to cut down the nesting trees of eagles.

Hancock said he can’t be sure the same pair of eagles returned to the nest each year, but it’s “very likely.”

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