The Arkansas City area has been home to bald eagles in years past — in particular, near the hike-bike trail and at Chaplin Nature Center.

The nature center is host to several hikes each year that are dedicated to spotting the winged creatures.

The first of these hikes in 2018 is set to take place Jan. 27. The hike will begin at 10 a.m.

“The combination of freezing temperatures and lack of tree foliage makes winter one of the best times to view bald eagles,” said Chaplin Nature Center naturalist Shawn Silliman.

“After a 15-minute indoor presentation, the group will hike down to the Arkansas River to search for wintering eagles.”

The weather Jan. 27 is likely to be sunny, with a high of 54 degrees, according to www.noaa.gov.

Individuals who are interested in participating are urged to dress for winter hiking.

Chaplin Nature Center is located at 27814 27th Drive, west of Arkansas City.

About the bald eagle

The bald eagle once was on the endangered species list, but later removed in 2007.

However, there still are federal laws that protect the national bird, as the City of Arkansas City learned a few years ago when two eagles took up residence not far from the hike-bike trail.

The city was required to post signage warning hikers of their proximity and possible repercussions.

The rules set down by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act outline the ways the public is allowed to be near the eagles.

This protection act was enacted in 1940. It forbids anyone, “without a permit issued by the government, to pursue, shoot, shoot at, poison, wound, kill, capture, trap, collect, molest or disturb bald eagles, including their parts, nests, or eggs,” according to www.fws.gov. People are also not allowed to disturb the birds or their nests, according to the act.

Disturbing means “to agitate or bother a bald or golden eagle to a degree that causes, or is likely to cause, based on the best scientific information available, 1) injury to an eagle, 2) a decrease in its productivity, by substantially interfering with normal breeding, feeding, or sheltering behavior, or 3) nest abandonment, by substantially interfering with normal breeding, feeding, or sheltering behavior.”

A violation of the act can result in a fine of $100,000 ($200,000 for organizations), imprisonment for up to one year or both, for a first offense.

The penalties increase substantially for additional offenses, and a second violation of this act is a felony, according to the federal website.