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Golden eagles that winter in Ky. are part of a new conservation plan

An eastern golden eagle
Eastern Golden Eagle Working Group
The eastern golden eagle migrate to eastern states like Kentucky in the winter from Northern Canada

New conservation efforts are protecting the eastern gold eagle from environmental threats for the first time, according to a plan published by the Eastern Golden Eagle Working Group last week.

Researchers estimate more than 5,000 eastern golden eagles migrate between the U.S. and Canada, overwintering among forest blocks in the Appalachian Mountains in Kentucky and West Virginia then spending the summer nesting near bodies of water in the Canadian wilderness.

The eastern population of North American golden eagles are thought to be stable, but the raptors face a number of man-made threats like lead poisoning from bullet fragments, vehicle collisions, loss of habitat, illegal shootings and climate change.

The Eastern Golden Eagle Working Group drafted the conservation plan to highlight key objectives towards reducing these threats, maintaining the eastern population and learning more about their habitats.

“The Eastern Golden Eagle Working Group seeks to work with other stakeholders to implement the actions outlined here to promote the conservation of this iconic species,” according to the plan.

Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest has worked with the Eastern Golden Eagle Working Group for over a decade. Conservation director Andrew Berry said Bernheim’s increased research into eastern golden eagles, specifically with GPS tracking of Athena, has shed light on its distinction as a species.

Barry hopes this plan will contribute to more awareness of the species and recognition in the U.S. Endangered Species Act in the future. Making the public aware of these threats is essential to greater protection for the species, he said.

“As these threats continue to increase, we could see decreases in [eastern golden eagle populations] in the coming decades if people aren't aware, and if people aren’t focused on how to mitigate some of these threats,” Berry said.

One simple change can help save eagles, Berry said. Hunters shooting deer and other prey animals with lead ammunition can contaminate the meat that eastern gold eagles and other predators eat. For golden eagles, the lead can have lethal effects.

“Just the impact of a few hunters in an area using non-lead ammo can really have a big benefit for wildlife overall,” he said.

Giselle is LPM's breaking news reporter. Email Giselle at grhoden@lpm.org.

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