Golden eagles relocated to Summit County from Denver International Airport

Golden eagles are one of the largest, fastest and nimblest raptors in North America with wingspans between 6 and 7 feet

Summit County Sheriff's Office/Courtesy photo
A Sheriff's Office Community Service Officer witnessed a U.S. Department of Agriculture wildlife official release a pair of golden eagles Tuesday, May 30, 2023, in Frisco.
Summit County Sheriff’s Office/Courtesy photo

A pair of golden eagles that became trapped in goshawk traps at Denver International Airport were released in Summit County on Tuesday, May 30, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The two golden eagles were captured in nonlethal traps on an airfield, one on April 2 and the other on April 28, Tanya Espinosa, a spokesperson with the USDA’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service said in an email. The raptors posed a possible hazard to air traffic.

Nate Hill, a community service officer with Summit County Sheriff’s Office, had a chance encounter in Frisco with the wildlife official who released the bird, according to a Facebook post by the Sheriff’s Office.

Hill witnessed the two birds of prey take off after the wildlife official opened the cages on the back of his truck at the Giberson Day Use Area in Frisco, the post states.

“What a great experience to see these two beautiful birds being relocated in Summit County,” the Sheriff’s Office wrote.

It is rare for eagles to find themselves in the airfield traps, which look like big boxes, Espinosa said. Once captured, the birds are banded and transferred to a rehabilitation facility to ensure they are healthy and disease-free before being relocated to a safe location about 100 miles from the airport, she said.

“Because human health and safety is of paramount importance, airports around the country have Migratory Bird Depredation permits that allow them to ‘take’ birds to prevent airstrikes,” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Public Affairs Specialist Allison Stewart explained in an email. “‘Take’ can either be done through trapping and relocating — as was done with these two Golden Eagles — or through lethal means.”

Golden eagles are one of the largest, fastest and nimblest raptors in North America, according to All About Birds, a website run by the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology. The eagles can have wingspans between 6 and 7 feet and have neatly defined patches at the base of their tails and wings for the first couple years of their lives.

The bird in the photo posted by the Sheriff’s Office appears to be a second-year bird and does not yet have its adult plumage yet, which birds generally acquire around their fifth year, Stewart said, so it is likely too young to be mating.

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is supportive of efforts to relocate raptors from Denver International Airport and the proper permit was in place for the trapping and relocation of the golden eagles, she added.

“Golden Eagles face many threats on the landscape, such as airstrike hazards at airports, growing numbers of wind turbines, electrocutions on power lines, lead poisoning, and shooting,” Stewart wrote. “Any effort to preserve these birds, which can live long lives but reproduce slowly, is much appreciated.”

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