Golden Eagle Camera Trapping Update

See the following update from Joe Tomcho on efforts to record Golden Eagles in Western NC:

The 2014 Golden Eagle camera trapping project was a great success for NC this year.  We documented goldens at 8 sites.  Thurmond Chatham, Mitchell River, Buffalo Cove, South Mountains, Sandy Mush, Little Table Rock (Humpback Mtn Tract) are all state owned game lands that documented goldens, while northern Mitchell County and Cherokee County on USFS land also documented goldens.  The D7 sites operated by the Wilkes Crew probably had the most diversity species wise pulling in bald eagles, spotted skunks and various other critters.   Thanks to this project we are learning a lot about the critters that are on these lands with some very interesting finds, some we would never have anticipated.  There are already some spin off projects looking at spotted skunk and fox distribution across the mid-Atlantic region.
While most sites only had a few sightings of goldens, Thurmond Chatham and the northern Mitchell County site had numerous birds all throughout the trapping season.  We carefully looked at pictures and identified around 14-15 individual goldens at the northern Mitchell County site.   Two years ago we thought there may have been a couple goldens floating through in the winter and now we know that the northern counties possibly from the Smokies to Thurmond Chatham is probably NC’s biggest wintering grounds for goldens.  Who knows how many we have wintering here, but it’s definitely more than we have ever expected.  The northern Mitchell trap site is still going and will  be shut down next week and we are still seeing goldens there.   As a matter of fact on 3/1 the golden (Monroe) we caught and transmittered on 12 February showed back up at the northern Mitchell  site and actually went back down to the bait.  We got a couple of pictures of him and he actually spent the night there very close to the bait site.  Looking at the attached map you can see where he has been for the last ~40 days.  This adult male golden spends most of his time in the greater Roan Highlands, frequently roosting west of NC 226, but also wandering to the Cane Creek Mountains on the Avery-Mitchell line and passing by Burnsville and Mars Hill. In February, he made a blitz trip to West Virginia, reaching flight speeds of 126 mph, but returned to NC in a matter of days.  At last check in, he was flying rather quickly in the direction of Pond Mountain yesterday.  Our wintering goldens are getting antsy. We suspect they will be moving north to the Canadian nesting grounds soon. 
Next year we will purchase 4 transmitters and trap birds from our sites to contribute to the wintering and migration data that our partners already have.  We’ll hopefully have some of the tracking maps on our website for folks to follow throughout the season.  
Thanks to everyone who helped out with this project in making it a success.  It was truly a collaborative effort between many divisions and agencies.  We still have lots more to learn and more areas to trap, so If anyone has an interest and time contact Chris Kelly.  She is going to be putting more detailed info, pictures and video out in the next couple of weeks on facebook so stay tuned.
Joe Tomcho
Conservation Tech I
North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission
78 Wildlife Lane 
Burnsville, NC 28714
828-682-6718 Office
828-284-0778 Cell