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Spaul, Rob – Recreation Disturbance to a Shrub-Steppe Raptor: Biological Consequences, Behavioral Mechanisms, and Management Implications

Alumni Research

Off-highway vehicle (OHV) activity has increased on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands nationwide and specifically in southwestern Idaho. Human disturbance similar to OHV use can cause Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) nest site abandonment or reproductive failure.

Rob Spaul holding a Golden Eagle in the field

In 2011 the BLM-Owyhee Field Office (OFO) began implementing seasonal trail closures of some OHV trails to reduce the risk of disturbance to nesting eagles and potential take, and has permanently closed other trails for long term habitat protection.

In support of an adaptive management program with the BLM, we propose to research Golden Eagle territory occupancy, nest site behavior, and nest productivity in relation to OHV recreational activity and trail density. Formerly unknown and historic Golden Eagle nesting sites will be monitored following established methodology. Using trail cameras within 1km of nests, OHV use will be sampled throughout the breeding season, and remote sensing techniques will assess trail density.

Multi-state occupancy and nest survival models will be used to examine these effects on eagle nest site selection, breeding behavior and nest survival. This study will better equip recreation and wildlife managers to protect Golden Eagle habitat and ensure continued nest success.

Boise State University Video on Rob Spaul’s Work


Thesis Abstract