It’s seen, not usually heard, within the western desert of Utah and alongside the expanse of the Nice Salt Lake’s Antelope Island, the place cliffs present a towering view of the buffalo, the jack rabbits, and folks biking and mountain climbing.
The golden eagle makes use of these cliffs as a crib to lift its younger, safely away from human threats and as a pure nursery that enhances its gorgeous aerial skills.
However not all is properly with this species — in truth this yr is in regards to the worst wildlife consultants have seen for it — and there are myriad causes residents in Utah, the West and, in truth, the world ought to care.
Over the previous few months, the Deseret Information explored the world of the golden eagle, what makes it distinctive, what threats it faces and the vital function it performs not solely in a fragile ecosystem underneath siege however in amplifying army readiness for the protection of the USA and its allies.
Listed below are 5 key takeaways in regards to the significance of the golden eagle, why it’s a species that evokes awe and a little bit of trepidation and the way it intersects with our lives, regardless that we could not realize it.
Eagles are protected
The Bald and Golden Eagle Safety Act, handed in 1940, prohibits anybody from “taking” both of these birds with out a particular allow issued by the U.S. Division of Inside. It’s unlawful to even possess a feather, talon or egg of one in every of these birds, and easily disturbing a nest can convey as much as two years in jail and a $250,000 high-quality.
Whereas the bald eagle is the image of the USA and each species are revered by Native Individuals, the golden eagle holds a good larger place on the religious ladder by tribes — its feathers are probably the most coveted. In keeping with the American Eagle Basis, the birds are “honored with nice care and proven the deepest respect. They characterize honesty, fact, majesty, power, braveness, knowledge, energy and freedom. As they roam the sky, they’re believed to have a particular connection to God,” and are thought-about a particular messenger to God.
Golden eagles are dying
The golden eagles are in hassle, and this yr seems to be the worst in additional than 40 years for the speed of nestling survival in Utah. Excessive morbidity is because of RHD2, a pressure of rabbit hemorrhagic illness that’s decimating a main meals supply — massive jack rabbits. The illness was first launched into the USA a number of years in the past, has unfold to Europe and was first detected in southern Utah final spring. Jack rabbit populations are cyclical in nature anyway, however throughout this nestling season as dad and mom prey on meals for his or her younger, their success has confirmed more and more dismal as a consequence of rabbit shortage.
Learn this Deseret News story about how one thing that’s killing us, can also be killing birds.
Golden eagles are apex predators
With a wing span of as much as 7 toes and and its capacity to dive at speeds clocked at 150 mph, the golden eagle is an apex predator with nice power, with talons exerting gripping power at the least 10 occasions that of a human. Wildlife biologists have discovered fawn carcasses of their nests. However their survival this yr — even with all that power — is examined by lack of meals provide and human threats that embody transmission traces, wind farms and even one thing as seemingly innocuous because the I-15 hall stretching the size of Utah.
The Division of Protection is funding golden eagle analysis
With federal laws defending the golden eagle, the Division of Protection with its army installations in Utah has an enormous vested curiosity in minimizing inadvertent hurt to the species. Due to this, the biggest golden eagle analysis was undertaken within the western United States and garnered nationwide recognition in 2020. Within the collaborative effort by the division and Hawkwatch Worldwide, researchers scale cliffs and timber to seize the nestlings, do a well being test and put GPS trackers on them. This system has served as an distinctive coaching routine for troopers as they maneuver drones within the area to doc the species and hone their abilities for wartime readiness.
The plight of golden eagles reveals there’s an issue for different species
Golden eagles are an indicator species in an ecosystem underneath assault. Raging wildfires within the West and human exercise have ruined the delicate sagebrush-steppe system, wiping out sagebrush and different pure vegetation. As a substitute the extremely flammable cheatgrass prospers, and in a warming local weather and relentless drought, the menace to nature and to individuals accelerates. Golden eagles prey on rodents and different small mammals, serving to to maintain that system in stability. As they flail and battle to outlive, it’s another tell-tale signal of an atmosphere that has been upended, an atmosphere all of us rely upon.