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There is a lot of misinformation on the topic of Golden Eagles and the disturbances that are detrimental to their natural behaviors. Unfortunately, recent local radio and newspaper reports that helicopters were disturbing local nesting Golden Eagles were not based on evidence and data collected or published by the experts. WRI is committed to protecting Golden Eagles and invites you to read the scientific literature at the bottom of the page to foster well-informed decision making regarding our local Golden Eagle population.



Golden Eagles and Helicopters

“A variety of human activities, including mining and recreation, may adversely impact the reproductive success, habitat use, survival, and foraging ecology of raptors.” Steidl et al. 1993


Hiking, climbing, and even paragliding are disruptive to Golden Eagles and have been observed and documented by WRI as contributing factors to nest and chick abandonment.

Humans and Golden Eagles
In addition to the observations made by WRI during our more than 40 years of studying Golden Eagles, evidence from published studies confirm that human presence, especially in the forms of rock climbing, walking, hiking, camping, recreation and tourism, disturbs and adversely affects nearby nesting Golden Eagles (Colorado Division of Wildlife 2008, Holmes et al. 1993, Kaisanlahti et al. 2008, Romin 2002, Scott 1985, Steidl  et al. 1993). WRI observations have specifically supported that such human activities are contributing factors to nest and chick abandonment. Raptors will flush, or fly away suddenly, if humans are on foot nearby. This is especially detrimental to the Golden Eagle population during nesting season, when flushing from the nest exposes young or eggs to chilling, overheating or possible predation by ravens or other predators. Colorado Division of Wildlife recognizes this by enforcing seasonal restrictions within a one-half mile radius of active Golden Eagle nests during nesting season (Colorado Division of Wildlife 2008).

Imagine if a raptor’s eggs in a cliff nest were exposed for the duration of the first to last rock climbers’ activities a single given weekend day. For eagles, this results in baby eagles and eggs being lost each year and is well documented by WRI in Southern California. Long-term disturbance from these human-based activities results in a total loss of the breeding pair and extirpation of the entire territory. WRI has recorded a 41% loss of breeding eagles in Southern California over the past 61 years, clearly correlated to human disturbance, development and encroachment (Bittner et al. 2011).
The Golden Eagles in these photos can be seen continuing with their daily activities while being photographed from a nearby helicopter. Photos taken by WRI Biologists.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service agrees that helicopter surveys are an accepted and well-documented means of efficiently and thoroughly surveying eagle nests without negatively impacting nesting Golden Eagles (Grubb et al. 2010, United States Fish and Wildlife Service 2010). When conducted according to USFWS recommendations, helicopter surveys minimize impacts to nesting raptors (United States Fish and Wildlife Service 2010).

What YOU can do!
There are good laws and processes in place that support your concerns. For instance, the wind and solar industries are being required to evaluate all their sites for possible interference with sensitive and protected species when proposing a new project.

Many in government and private sector are ignoring or violating laws enacted to protect wildlife. We should hold our own county government agencies such as SD County Parks and Recreation to the same standard and not allow them to use a negative declaration for their projects that will specifically disturb Golden Eagle nests.

Contact your County Supervisor and express your concern about trails being placed near Golden Eagle nest sites

Send letters to the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USF&WS) and CA Fish and Game (CDFG) expressing the same concerns

Check to make sure there are no closings on the mountain or area where you are planning to spend time


California Department of Fish and Game
1416 Ninth St.
12th Floor
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 653-7667

Department of Interior
US Fish & Wildlife Service
1849 C St, NW
Room 3331
Washington, DC 20240

Barbara Boxer, Senator
600 B St, Suite 2240
San Diego, CA 92101



These scientific articles are consistent with our findings at WRI, further supporting that Golden Eagles are indifferent to helicopters and most sensitive to human disturbance.




Bittner, J.D., J. Oakley, C. Meador, J. Hannan, J. R. Rivard, J. Newland, J. Wells, K. Quint. 2011. Natal Dispersal of           Golden Eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) from Southern California and Nevada. Presentation presented at the Raptor           Research Foundation’s Annual Scientific Conference. Deluth, MN. Powerpoint.

Colorado Division of Wildlife. 2008. Recommended Buffer Zones and Seasonal Restrictions for Colorado Raptors.           Denver. Print.

Grubb, T.G., D.K. Delaney, W.W. Bowerman, M.R. Wierda. 2010. Golden Eagle Indifference to Heli-Skiing and Military           Helicopters in Northern Utah. The Journal of Wildlife Management 4(6): 1275-1285. Print.

Holmes, T.L., R.L. Knight, L. Stegall, G.R. Craig. 1993. Responses of Wintering Grassland Raptors to Human           Disturbance. Wildlife Society Bulletin 21: 461-468. Print.

Kaisanlahti-Jokimäki, M., J. Jokimäki, E. Huhta, M. Ukkola, P. Helle, T. Ollila. 2008. Territory Occupancy and Breeding           Success of Golden Eagles around tourist destinations in Northern Finland. Ornis Fennica 85:2-12. Print.

McIntyre, C. 2006. Success of Golden Eagles in Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska: 2006 Progress Report.           Central Alaska Network, Vital Signs Monitoring Program. Print.

Richardson, C.T. and C.K. Miller. 1997. Recommendations for protecting raptors from human disturbance: a review.           Wildlife Society Bulletin 25(3): 634-638. Print.

Scott, T.A. 1985.  Human impacts on the golden eagle population of San Diego County from 1928-1981.  M.S. Thesis.           San Diego State Univ. Print.

Steidl, R.J., K.D. Kozie, G.J. Dodge, T. Pehowski and R.E. Hogan. 1993. Effects of Human Activity on Breeding           Behavior of Golden Eagles in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve: A Preliminary Assessment.           National Park Service, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Copper Center, Alaska, WRST Research           and Resource Management Report; 93-3. Print.

United States Fish and Wildlife Service. 2002. Utah Field Office Guidelines for Raptor Protection from Human and Land           Use Disturbance. Romin, L.A., J.A. Muck. Salt Lake City: Utah Field Office. Print.

United States Fish and Wildlife Service. 2010. Interim Golden Eagle Technical Guidance: Inventory and Monitoring           Protocols; and Other Recommendations in Support of Golden Eagle management and Permit Issuance. Pagel,           J.E., D.M. Whittington, G.T. Allen. Arlington: Division of Migratory Bird Management. Print.


San Diego County Board of Supervisors (Greg Cox, Dianne Jacob, Pam Slater-Price, Ron Roberts, and Bill Horn)
1600 Pacific Highway, Room 335
San Diego, CA 92101
More. . . Photos

Humans and Golden

What YOU can do