Golden Eagle Photo Trapping Project

Bald Eagle 512x362

During the month of January in 2014 and 2015, the refuge participated in a golden eagle photo trapping project with West Virginia University and Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.


The goal of the golden eagle photo trapping project was to estimate the population size of golden eagles that spend their winters in the Appalachians. To reach this goal, photos of golden eagles were taken and then analyzed by special software that identifies individual golden eagles. Once individuals were identified, each photo of an individual is considered a “capture”. From this information a population estimate can be made.

Eagles are “captured” by placing bait approximately 6 feet from a trail camera. The bait most often used is a deer carcass. At the refuge we used carcasses recovered from the side of the road. The memory card on the camera and the bait was checked approximately every 5 days. All photos from the memory card were then sent to West Virginia University and added to their data.

The location where this research took place on the refuge was in an area closed to the public for the length of the study (January 1st through February 15th). During the two years Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge participated, no golden eagles were “captured” on the refuge, but there were captures of bald eagles. There were also “captures” of bobcat, coyotes, vultures, and red-tailed hawks.