On the 18th of March 2014, a male Golden Eagle that had been feeding for most of that winter landed on the bait pile in New Lisbon. Scott VanArsdale patiently waited for the bird to get comfortable feeding. The bird dropped his head and Scott hit the button on the remote, sending a net over the bird. For the next couple of hours he was measured and fitted with a small backpack carried GPS tracking device that recorded a data point every 15 minutes. He was named Greg by one of our donors. After release he spent another 2 weeks in central Otsego County before heading north. Shortly after he passed Quebec City we stopped receiving regular downloads of data through the cell phone network.
In January 2015, Greg started occasionally showing up at camera traps in the same area where he was captured the year before. The same thing happened in 2016. His tracking device had a problem. He was alive and well but the last data we received was from April 6, 2014.
An effort to capture Greg during the winter of 2016 failed. He would not come near the bait when people were in the blind. We had hoped to replace the failed device with a new unit.
This fall we received the bad news that Greg was found dead in a snare in Quebec. There are about 3000 trappers in Quebec. Snares are used to trap coyotes and wolves for the fur industry. The Quebec wildlife authorities work to educate trappers so as to avoid such by-catch. While there is no silver lining to this tragedy, we were able to retrieve a wealth of data from the tracking device. Its failure had prevented it from connecting, but it did not stop it from storing 15 months of data. These data have yet to be analyzed but at first glance they are very interesting. We have 283 days of data from his summer range. This is mostly in Newfoundland and Labrador, an area south of where most GPS tracked birds have summered.
There are 123 days of winter data. He spent his winters in west-central Otsego County. The habitat in this area is quite different from that used by the Catskill eagles we have tracked. It is less wooded and steep. Some of the Catskill birds wandered quite a bit – Greg did not. Once the winter settled in, his range became quite concentrated. This suggests a good food supply. The winter of 2015 – for which we have a complete data set – was brutal. We speculate that there were fewer Golden Eagles at our camera traps that year because they did not need our sites. Winter killed deer were easy to find.
These data are now being used as part of a continent wide examination of Golden Eagle range and habitat. We expect to analyze the data set over time, and compare it to the Catskill birds we have tracked.