The annual Eagle Days event at Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge in Holt County will not be held this year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Niikki Horne, visitor services specialist at the refuge, said this December would have been the 42nd annual Eagle Days celebration.

She said the event was cancelled as a result of the virus outbreak and the refuge remains dedicated to providing educational, family-oriented opportunities.

Eagle Days has drawn thousands of attendees to the refuge each year.

“Even though this was a difficult decision, we feel that it is the right one,” Horne said. “The safety of our staff, volunteers, visitors and community is our number one priority.”

She said the bald eagle numbers have increased on the refuge this year.

In mid-summer, seven eaglets fledged from three active eagle nests. This is the first time in many years that there have been three active nests on the refuge at the same time.

Horne said the auto tour route and hiking trails remain open every day from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset. Public restrooms are available at the parking lot of the headquarters building. There is no cost to visit the refuge.

In addition, the public monarch butterfly tagging events scheduled on Sept. 12 and 19 have been cancelled due to the pandemic.

Horne said staff will complete the task this year but it will not be an open event to the public.

She said planning for an infrastructure improvement project on the refuge is still underway.

Ducks Unlimited and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have been working together to get three wells and one mobile pump unit to aid in managing water on the refuge.

Eagle Pool has been drawn down to half pool, and contractors have surveyed and flagged the designated areas.

Without delays caused by significant rainfall and high water levels, the new wells and pump will be finished by late September 2020.

The project has been funded partly through private donations and the goal is to enhance the ability to maintain and manage water-dependent habitats.

Margaret Slayton can be reached at margaret.slayton@newspressnow.com.