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Tracking Eagles with GPS Telemetry Systems
Midwest Region, March 21, 2014
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Cathy Henry, manager at Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuge in Iowa, releases a bald eagle outfitted with a GPS tracking unit.
Cathy Henry, manager at Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuge in Iowa, releases a bald eagle outfitted with a GPS tracking unit. - Photo Credit: Trish Miller, West Virginia University
Drew Becker, eagle permit biologist, holds a bald eagle in preparation for attaching a GPS unit.
Drew Becker, eagle permit biologist, holds a bald eagle in preparation for attaching a GPS unit. - Photo Credit: Aleshia Kenney, USFWS
A GPS tracking unit is attached to a bald eagle prior to release on Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuge in Iowa.
A GPS tracking unit is attached to a bald eagle prior to release on Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuge in Iowa. - Photo Credit: Aleshia Kenney

The Rock Island, Illinois, Field Office, together with researchers from West Virginia University, recently attached several GPS units to eagles wintering on the Mississippi River. The GPS-GSM telemetry units, obtained from Cellular Tracking Technologies, are the newest, highest quality and most cost-effective way to track eagles. These units use the cell tower network to download data, providing highly detailed information about movements and allowing for customized duty cycles. The information we collect will consist of location, altitude, speed, heading and fix quality. We will alternate duty cycles every nine days. For the first nine days we will collect data at 15-minute intervals from dawn to dusk. Every 10th day, the duty cycle will switch to 30-second intervals so that we can better understand specific flight behaviors. Such high frequency data provides exceptional insight into eagle flight behavior and allows detailed interpretation of the potential impacts of wind farms and power lines on eagles.

 

This data will be vitally important as eagle populations increase and wind energy development increases. Together, these increases may result in a greater potential for take, resulting in more application for take permits issued under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. These applications are controversial as illustrated by the recent permit applications. Providing more accurate information about eagle movements across the landscape and during different times of the year is essential for the Service to make informed decisions during the permitting process. This project will contribute to a better understanding of how eagles move throughout the Midwestern landscape and of what environmental conditions put them at greatest risk.
 


Contact Info: Drew Becker, 309-757-5800 ext. 216, drew_becker@fws.gov



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