What has been a fierce battle between Wal-Mart officials planning to build a new supercenter and Tarpon Springs residents bent on preserving land on the Anclote River just got more complicated.
Nature has thrown a punch of its own.
A bald eagle pair has built a sturdy and federally protected nest on the property.
For the birds, it's an ideal site: a live pine tree with branches that twist under the nest to support it, a river with clear water to fish and not much disturbance nearby.
But it's less than 200 feet from the walls of a planned nearly 5-acre Wal-Mart supercenter. On site plans, the nesting tree appears to be in the store's parking lot, and slated for removal.
Tuesday, a Wal-Mart official said this is not the first time the company has discovered an active bald eagle nest on property it was developing. So officials know what's required and how to work with the agencies involved.
Others see the nest as more of a stumbling block.
Mayor Beverley Billiris said the agencies that protect the eagles will have to weigh in and advise the parties involved.
Dory Larsen, president of Concerned Citizens of Tarpon Springs, a group that has worked to stop Wal-Mart and protect the river, hopes the eagles make a big difference to her cause.
"It's beyond fantastic news," she said. "I am just e-l-a-t-e-d."
Although bald eagles are no longer on the list of threatened and endangered species , they are still protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.
The laws prohibit killing, selling or otherwise harming eagles, their nests or eggs.