Golden eagles are present throughout central Kentucky during winter months, but seldom seen by people. Data on the winter range of Harper, the golden eagle tracked by Bernheim, show a strong aversion to people and the places they live. A nice example of that was seen on November 24, with an area used encompassing 2,500 acres. Several houses were avoided, and flight direction was rerouted when he became within half a mile of the residential area.
This pattern has been seen throughout our tracking of Harper. While at Bernheim he does not visit public areas such as the Arboretum or Forest Hill where we have hiking trails and picnic areas. He also does not fly over the Crooked Creek Boy Scout Camp and prefers to stay on the backside of their large lake. It has been shown over the past few years that with the exception of migration he almost never flies over residential areas while on his winter range. During summer in northern Manitoba he resides in an inaccessible area probably as remote as it gets in North America. This tracking project has shown that our golden eagle is not willing to share his territory with humans.
The fact he does not wish to reside near humans brought about two larger questions:
- Large interior forest blocks seem to be critical winter habitat for eastern golden eagles. What is the status of large forest blocks of several thousand acres in central Kentucky?
- What is more important, large forests or the lack of people, or a bit of both? How have interactions between humans and golden eagles led to the current habitat partitioning we see with Harper?
The next three pieces will focus on these questions, specifically:
- Large forest habitats for golden eagles in Central Kentucky
- Natural history of golden eagles in Kentucky
- Golden eagles and the history of interactions with humans