NORFOLK-- The eagle nests at Norfolk Botanical Garden were removed Thursday morning.
Federal, state and local wildlife officials said one complete nest and a partial nest had to be taken down because of the danger to wildlife and aircraft coming and going from nearby Norfolk International Airport.
The FAA cited concerns about four bald eagles being struck by aircraft in the last 10 years. The USDA identified bald eagles as 'an extremely high' hazard risk to aircraft.
The city applied for state and federal permits to remove the nests before nesting season begins in the next few months. The permits came in this week.
A post on the City of Norfolk Facebook page said 'While we all have enjoyed the eagle's at Norfolk Botanical Garden, encouraging them to find a new home ultimately ensures the safety of the public, property and the eagles.'
The removal didn't take long - perhaps 5 minutes - because the nests weren't as intricately-built as they expected. The branches were put into a chipper and ground up.
City officials said Norfolk Botanical Garden, Norfolk International Airport and the city agreed to support the recommendation of the USDA Wildlife Services to remove the nests following months of discussion and study of the USDA's Wildlife Hazard Assessment and Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries reports on the status and population of eagles in Virginia.
City spokeswoman Lori Crouch said there wasn't a way to keep the nests up.
'The nest is so close to that runway that there wasn't another option, really, for the interest of public safety and for the interest of these birds,' she said.
Norfolk Botanical Garden Executive Director Donald R. Buma said the USDA will be monitoring eagle activity and if they start building nests, harassment techniques will be used to chase them off.