Ospreys are in same nest at new location

By Jeff Smith

An osprey by it’s new nest near the Conoco gas station.

The ospreys in Hill City now have a new home. A new nest sits above the Mickelson Trail by the Conoco gas station.

Four different entities collectively worked together to find a new spot for the osprey nest. These were the Pennington County Emergency Management, Black Hills Energy, the City of Hill City and South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks.

On May 1, a new nest was created. There was previously a nest created by ospreys on a siren by Tracy Park.

Dustin Willett, emergency management director for Pennington County, decided that a change would have to be made. The worry was that the ospreys could potentially disable the siren.

South Dakota is going to be right in the middle of a period of time that severe storms could happen.

Samantha Nichols, program specialist with the South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks, said they first thought of putting the new nest at Tracy Park.

“But that was too close to traffic and we were worried about the users of the park,” Nichols said.

Another option was to put it really close to the siren but then the ospreys would be in the direct blast zone of the siren.

What drew South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks to the spot that was chosen was the Mickelson Trail and that they didn’t have to worry about land ownership. The pole is in the right-of-way for the trail.

“That was the best place to put it because there is minimal impact on private landowners, minimal impact on the birds,” Nichols said.

She said it is not ideal to move ospreys once they have built a nest but they couldn’t remain on the siren.

The platform was supplied by the Game, Fish and Parks. Black Hills Energy provided the pole and also relocated the nest.

Maria Garduna, Environmental Professional at Black Hills Energy, said Black Hills Energy works with Game, Fish and Parks pretty frequently for similar situations.

Nichols said they were not sure what to expect when they took down the nest. The nest was taken down right at a period when eggs could have already been laid.

Nichols said they are permitted through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to move nests with eggs but they try really hard not to move a nest with eggs in it.

Ultimately, the goal is to keep the eggs at the same spot until the end of the nesting season. That is typically in September or October.

Nichols said the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks will keep tabs on the osprey as best as they can. They try to get around to a lot of the known sites to check them every year but they also rely on the public to let the department know what is going on.

The ospreys are still by a creek, which is good so they have ample fish to get.

The nest was not destroyed in an effort to have the ospreys have a successful nesting period.

“They took to it almost right away,” Nichols said.

“We watched them when they moved to the platform. We feel pretty confident that they are going to be pretty successful this year.”

Vic Alexander, who owns the Conoco gas station, said it was a good location and people will be able to see the ospreys as they go to the gas station or while they do their laundry.

Ospreys are something that tourists enjoy seeing, too.

Osprey nests aren’t new to Hill City. In fact, this area is considered a hotspot for ospreys.

Nichols said there are quite a few osprey nests across the Black Hills. Osprey nests can be seen from seen from the Rafter J Bar Ranch area to the the Three Forks Area.

What makes Hill City and the surrounding area likeable to ospreys is the amount of water in the area.

“They hone in on water particularly, and then they are looking for the highest point around to build their nest,” Nichols said.

The founding osprey nest in the Black Hills was by Pactola Lake. A lot of ospreys come back to the area where they were born.

Ospreys mostly eat fish but it has been reported that they can eat snakes and small rodents too.

Ospreys are native to southeastern South Dakota because there are larger bodies of water  there but ospreys are not native to the Black Hills.

Ospreys are considered threatened in South Dakota and protected under the Federal Migratory Bird Act.