SKEEDSKADEE – Officials at Seedskadee and Cokeville Meadows National Wildlife Refuges recently discussed bald eagles and their hunting strategies this winter.
Officials opened saying Bald eagles have gotten a bad rap in some circles as primarily a carrion eater. While they will readily take advantage of a dead pronghorn, mule deer, or rabbit along the Highways, they are also very effective at catching live prey.
Bald eagles have general prey species and hunting strategies dependent on what is available to them. However, they are also individuals that can learn, and tend to do what provides the biggest return for their effort. Officials said they have watched individual bald eagles perfect techniques for catching prairie dogs.
Using the sun rising in the east to cover their approach in one location in the morning and then switching to a new location to use the settting sun in the west for an afternoon hunt. They may switch to a new prey species when it becomes abundant and abandon targeting others when their numbers drop.
The bald eagles appear to be spending much less time this winter hunting for fish and waterfowl along the Green River, than they typically do. Some have shifted their time spent hunting to the sage steppe and appear to be successfully catching cottontails and jackrabbits on a regular basis.
Currently on Seedskadee NWR, cottontails and jackrabbits are abundant. The bald eagles still return to the cottonwoods along the river to roost for the night.