Research eagle killed in Mont.
By Mike Koshmrl, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
February 1, 2013
A Jackson Hole biologist’s research took a hit this past week, when one of six golden eagles he tracks became tangled in a Montana snare and died.
The adult female, GPS-tracked by Craighead Beringia South, was one of three Montana eagles recently caught in snares, said Becky Kean, director of the Montana Raptor Conservation Center. Two of the three, including Beringia South’s research subject, nicknamed “Elaine,” were killed.
Beringia South, based in Kelly, had been following Elaine’s migrations with a GPS backpack since 2010, said biologist Bryan Bedrosian. The study, which tracked six goldens, was conducted in tandem with the Raptor View Research Center, out of Missoula, Mont.
“It’s just unfortunate to lose a study bird that we’ve been tracking so long,” Bedrosian said. “There are a lot of longer-term questions she would have helped answer.”
It’s unlikely that Elaine would have been caught in a snare, Bedrosian said, unless it was set over an animal carcass or some type of meat. That is illegal in Montana.
“No trap or snare may be set within 30 feet of an exposed carcass or bait which is visible from above,” the state’s furbearer regulations read.
Snares and foothold traps are used to catch a wide array of mammals, but birds of prey, pets and other animals can be caught by accident.
Beringia South’s study was set up to help biologists better understand golden eagle migration corridors.
Between 1991 and 2010, an Audubon Society research project found that the migratory golden eagle population de-clined by 40 to 50 percent. Reasons for the decline, Bedrosian said, include collisions with wind turbines and electrical lines, incidental trapping, energy development and overall habitat loss.
“There’s a whole host of reasons, but I wouldn’t say there’s one smoking gun,” he said.
The Teton Raptor Center has tried to rehabilitate just one raptor injured in a snare in recent years, said Meghan Warren, the center’s program associate.
The raptor center’s snared bird, also a golden eagle, became entangled near Pinedale about a year ago. He died a week later after developing a fungal infection of the lungs.
“It’s such a tragedy,” Warren said of the Beringia South golden eagle. “It’s terrible that another animal had to suffer, and it was obviously not the intended animal for trapping.”
Kean, from the Montana Raptor Conservation Center, said the recent rash of snared eagles was very out of the ordinary.
“It was kind of overwhelming — we had three in two days,” she said. “These are the first [birds] I’ve seen killed in snare traps and I’ve been here full-time for 6 years.”
About three raptors a year are brought to the Montana rehabilitation center as a result of more common leghold traps, Kean said.
The one snared golden that did survive underwent successful surgery Wed-nesday, Kean said.
“She’s in the other room here eating right now,” she said over the phone from Montana.
“She’s doing pretty good so far, but it’s just the start of the healing process,” Kean added.