Researchers and biologist are studying bald eagles along Colorado’s Front Range

Published: Jul. 15, 2021 at 8:59 AM MDT
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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) -Researchers with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, CPW, and other project partners are conducting a four-year study, to take a closer look at the bald eagle population living along Colorado’s Front Range.

The study will look at the eagles’ current population trends, as well as habitat use and the human impact on the population.

The Front Range corridor is one area in Northern Colorado that is seeing rapid human growth, up 18% since 2000. The state is forecasted to grow to 832,000 people, with around 87% of that growth within the Front Range. Somehow, the eagle population has remained high in the area.

According to the CPW’s database, as of 2020, there were more than 90 breeding pairs in corridor from the Denver metro area, to the Wyoming state line. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, the eagle population has quadrupled since 2009, but the eagles didn’t always prosper in the urban corridor. By the end of the 1970s, only three bald eagle nests were known to exist in Colorado, with none on the Front Range.

“The reason we are focused on this area is the concentration of bald eagles along the Front Range, juxtaposed with the concentration of humans and human infrastructure along the Front Range,” said CPW Avian Researcher Reesa Conrey. “That intersection is a huge part of this project, in addition to monitoring what the eagles are doing in terms of their nest numbers and nest success.”

The discovery of new nest locations revealed that bald eagles were nesting in newer areas, far removed from conventional nesting areas. The CPW’s study could help researchers understand why the eagles are choosing to nest in these new areas.

Researchers will tag around 30 eagles living within the corridor with a tracker to monitor habitat use, and the animal movements all year.

“The transmitters that we are using for this project are different from what typically have been used,” Conrey said. “Previous generations of wildlife transmitters required biologists to use antennae to pick up the signals or they connected to satellite networks. But these transmitters connect to the cellular communications network. It allows our transmitters to be lighter in weight. That reduces potential stress on the eagles and it was a good choice for us in the Front Range because we have a lot of cell towers in this area.”

Results from the monitoring will model the bald eagle population trajectory as well as the impacts that could stem from future land developments.

“The study will give us a better understanding of this species’ tolerance of and adaptability to human activities and land use changes,” Conrey said. “The results will greatly improve long-term bald eagle monitoring, conservation and management efforts in Colorado.”

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