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New Focus on Eagle-aircraft strikes

New Focus on Eagle-Aircraft Strikes

Bald and golden eagles are two iconic species, both of which have experienced significant changes in populations during the past decade.  Recovery of bald eagle populations represents a true conservation success story. Bald eagles are now repopulating areas throughout much of their historic range that were unoccupied only a few years ago. In contrast, golden eagle populations appear to be declining across their range. Given the population growth of bald eagles and concerns regarding golden eagles, the frequency and impact of human-eagle conflicts is of interest to wildlife management agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and Wildlife Services (WS). For example, the risk of bald eagle-aircraft collisions is an increasing problem at airports and military airfields. Wind energy development projects also represent a challenge for the management and conservation of both species. Effective, socially responsible methods are needed to help minimize the impacts of conflicts between eagles and humans. In an effort to address growing concerns, NWRC Research Wildlife Biologist Dr. Brian Washburn is expanding his research on these large birds. In a recent analysis of civil and military bird strike information, Washburn found that the risk of bald eagle-aircraft collisions at airports and military airfields has increased by 142 percent since 2005. Using advanced satellite telemetry and 3-dimensional strike risk models, he and his partners from WS Operations are conducting studies to examine the aviation safety risk posed by bald eagles and other raptors using airport environments.

“We’re capturing bald eagles that are nesting on or near airports, fitting them with satellite telemetry units, and tracking them to determine their movements and activity patterns,” notes Washburn. “We’re also assessing the effectiveness of management methods such as live-trap and relocation of individual eagles.”

While serving on the USFWS’ Eagle Management Team, Washburn works with colleagues from other agencies to identify mitigation methods with the ultimate goal of reducing the impact of eagle-human conflicts.

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