Outlook pessimistic for unhatched eagle egg

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NORTH FORT MYERS, Fla. — Doubt has begun to grow about the viability of the unhatched eagle egg that’s drawn tens of thousands of eyes on the Southwest Florida Eagle Cam.

A baby eagle was born last week to Harriet and M15, the birds at the center of a saga that’s piqued the interest of nature lovers around the world. But it’s growing less likely by the day that another eaglet will emerge from the egg that remains in their nest, according to Michelle Van Deventer, an eagle expert with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

“Probably the most likely situation would be that it wasn’t fertilized, it wasn’t a fertilized egg, so the embryo never developed,” Van Deventer said.

Thousands of people are still watching the live online feed through cameras the Dick Pritchett Real Estate agency set up near the nest. But it’s been seven days past the usual incubation period of an eagle egg and no signs of movement or cracks have emerged.

“It’s not looking so good. I think the time is ticking,” eagle watcher Karen Cobbett said.

Even if the egg does hatch, its older sibling would have a significant advantage and could become a bully that dominates feedings, Van Deventer said.

The eagles will likely bury the egg among the other nest material if it doesn’t hatch before too long, and it’s possible the eagles will eat the contents of the egg if it breaks, according to Van Deventer. That’s a gruesome ending few want to ponder.

“For me it would be really sad to see the little one dying or being fed to its brother, which is not good to see,” Cobbett said.

It’s not unusual for an eagle egg not to hatch, but Van Deventer is puzzled why M15 buried the egg shortly after Harriet laid it — only to have Harriet dig it up again.

“I think when you’re working with wildlife, you’re always learning,” Van Deventer said. “Every day is a school day, but certainly this camera is a different perspective on exactly what’s going on with this particular pair of eagles.”

Some eagle watchers are simply grateful for the experience, regardless of the outcome.

“I shall enjoy the one eaglet and be thrilled if it’s two,” eagle watcher Sheila Kleiman said.

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