The Effects of Energy Development on Hawks and Golden Eagles Documented
From 2000 to 2006, the number of oil wells in Wyoming increased by 73 percent and the number of natural gas wells increased by 318 percent. Much of this development is on Federal lands including the Thunder Basin National Grassland. Wind power is also developing rapidly. Current energy development overlaps the habitats of ferruginous hawks and golden eagles in Wyoming. Given the reported sensitivities of both birds to human disturbance, an important management issue is how to mitigate potential effects from energy development, while conserving these prairie raptors.
In 2009, Forest Service scientists initiated an integrated study on how ferruginous hawks respond to energy development. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department, in cooperation with Forest Service scientists, used airplanes and helicopters to survey for nesting ferruginous hawks and golden eagles in 100 townships randomly distributed across the Wyoming prairies.
Surveys reflect a population of 1,894 nesting pairs of ferruginous hawks in Wyoming and 798 nesting pairs of golden eagles. Researchers also sampled hawk movements in energy developments by fitting male ferruginous hawks with global positioning system transmitters in five territories that are developed for oil and gas extraction and one territory with wind turbine operations.
These data, plus detailed samples of prey abundance, document how ferruginous hawks forage in the presence of energy developments. The American public understands the need for domestic energy production, but they also value wildlife conservation. Results from this study will help managers of natural resources develop conservation measures for ferruginous hawks and golden eagles with habitats in areas being developed for energy production.
Forest Service Partners