Wyoming bald eagle population very healthy

On a calm, foggy morning in January, 104 volunteers counted 425 Bald and Golden eagles during the 30th consecutive Bighorn Basin Midwinter Eagle Survey. Volunteers covered 2,703 miles split into 55 routes, making it one of the most active eagle surveys in the nation. “The number of Bighorn Basin residents who volunteer for this survey is impressive,” says BLM Cody Field Office Biologist Destin Harrell, who heads up the survey. “The volunteers understand that tracking population levels is a good way to measure progress toward species conservation.” In 1987, as part of a national effort to annually monitor eagle populations, the BLM Cody and Worland field offices began setting up routes along roads through eagle habitat. The data are managed by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers in cooperation with the U.S. Geological Survey, and provide important information on eagle trends, distribution and habitat. This information can then be used to inform efforts such as wind power planning. Bald Eagle habitat generally follows riparian corridors and Golden Eagle habitat is found in the uplands surrounded by sagebrush-steppe and windswept ridges. Eagles are not often observed in the mountains in winter because frozen rivers restrict their access to fish and deep snow limits their access to small mammals. Both species are better adapted to hunting in open spaces, plentiful in the Bighorn Basin. The low elevations of the basin make it a good place for many animals to winter as forage emerges from the shallow snow pack. Results from the Bighorn Basin Midwinter Eagle Survey reveal that 2016 was the second highest count of Bald Eagles in 30 years, a close second to 2014. The Bald Eagle population, which is mostly wintering eagles from the northernmost latitudes, appears to be high and steady over the last several years. This trend is expected to continue as the Bald Eagle has largely recovered from a long history of effects from pesticides, predominantly DDT. The Bald Eagle recovery and delisting under the Endangered Species Act is a national conservation success story (both species of eagle remain protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act). The Bighorn Basin Golden Eagle population fluctuates based on prey availability and abundance, following a classic predator-prey cycle. A recent population low, which appears to have followed the collapse of local rabbit populations, has now been followed by a rebound in both rabbit and Golden Eagle populations. Rabbits make up the bulk of the Golden Eagle diet and nest success is tied to their abundance and availability, as eight years of Golden Eagle research with the Draper Museum of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West has shown. Harrell is grateful for the valuable work of the Bighorn Basin volunteers. “The data our volunteers collect become more important with each additional survey year,” said Harrell. “We couldn’t do these surveys without them.” photo h/t BLM #reboot #springcity #county10 #news