Golden Eagle Conservation Plans Take Flight Thanks To UW Scientist

Mar 5, 2020

Credit Mike Lockhart

Wyoming is one of the most important golden eagle habitats in North America. But the iconic raptors are facing a potential population decline due to conventional and renewable energy development and other human-caused threats.

Collisions with wind turbines and vehicles, electrocution from power lines, oil and gas development, and lead poisoning from scavenged animals killed by hunters are all factors that could contribute to a higher mortality rate amongst the species.

Zach Wallace is a research scientist with University of Wyoming's Natural Diversity Database and the lead author and second author on two conservation planning reports that aim to address the problem.

"The conservation plans that we're talking about today are really a synthesis of all the available science," Wallace said, "I do research on other aspects of golden eagle ecology but this specific effort was to synthesize all the available data and research to inform conservation in the region."

The reports provide recommendations to reduce the impact of wind energy development and other hazards, such as installing turbines away from eagle habitats and retrofitting power poles to reduce the risk of electrocution. Wallace hopes the information will be useful to government and on governmental agencies and industries in order to have the maximum impact on eagle conservation.

"Golden eagles are a very charismatic species and they're a species that's emblematic of the western U.S. They are apex predators and also just amazing birds," Wallace said.

Wallace believes that since Wyoming is one of the most important golden eagle environments, that this comes with a responsibility to understand our impact on the species.

You can read the conservation strategy for the Wyoming and Utina basins region (including parts of Montana, Colorado, Idaho, and Utah) here.

The golden eagle conservation plan for the Northwestern Great Plains region (includes most of northeast Wyoming, eastern Montana, the western Dakotas, part of northern Nebraska) is available here.

More information can be found on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Western Golden Eagle Team's (WGET) website.

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Megan Feighery, at mfeigher@uwyo.edu.