Concern for baby eagles prompts cancellation of fireworks at Threshers stadium

The Clearwater minor-league baseball team said the decision is based on a recommendation from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
A pair of American bald eagle chicks sit in their nest atop a cellular communications tower Tuesday at U.S. 19 North near Drew Street in Clearwater.
A pair of American bald eagle chicks sit in their nest atop a cellular communications tower Tuesday at U.S. 19 North near Drew Street in Clearwater. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published June 2|Updated June 2

CLEARWATER — A fireworks display scheduled for after Saturday night’s Clearwater Threshers game at BayCare Ballpark was canceled Friday over fears the blasts could harm a pair of eagle chicks nesting in a cell tower across the street from the stadium.

The pair of bald eagle chicks are nesting roughly 1,000 feet from the ballpark — a distance federal wildlife guidance says is too close to be exposed to fireworks — and the eaglets are still in a vulnerable growth period before they leave their nest for the first time. Bird advocates told the Tampa Bay Times earlier this week they worried the fireworks were harming the eaglets.

“Recently, we were made aware of an active bald eagle’s nest located just east of US Highway 19, containing two fledgling eagles. Based on the recommendation of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and out of an abundance of caution for the safety of the fledgling eagles, The Clearwater Threshers are cancelling the post-game Fireworks show scheduled for Saturday, June 3rd,” a team spokesperson said in an emailed statement to the Times.

Related: Eagles are nesting 1,000 feet from Clearwater Threshers’ park. Are fireworks harming them?

“Although we understand that fans may be disappointed by the cancellation of the fireworks, we cannot, in good conscience, take any action that could potentially endanger these eaglets,” said spokesperson Robert Stretch. “We are a responsible community partner with amazing fans, and we believe they will support our decision.”

Saturday’s game between the Threshers and the Dunedin Blue Jays will still be played at 6:30 p.m. The game will honor first responders.

Fireworks have already been launched from the stadium five times this year, including four days in May, according to Doug Kemp, general manager for the ballpark. The Threshers routinely include postgame fireworks after Saturday home games and have done so since 2004.

Louise Roy, the coordinator for EagleWatch in Pinellas County, has been observing the pair of chicks nearly every day since April and raised concerns about the firework shows in an interview earlier this week. When the Times informed her of the news Friday, she shared a video she filmed earlier in the day of one of the eagle chicks flapping its wings and attempting to fly.

“We want to thank the County, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the City of Clearwater and the Threshers for considering the lives of these two bald eagle eaglets,” Roy said.

“They represent our American heritage. Thank you.”