Wintering Golden Eagles on the coastal plain of South Carolina
Golden Eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) are rare winter residents in eastern North America, with most found along the Appalachian Mountains and few reported on the coastal plain of the Carolinas. We used remote cameras baited with wild pig (Sus scrofa) and white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) carcasses to detect, age, and individually identify Golden Eagles on the U.S. Department of Energy's Savannah River Site on the coastal plain of South Carolina. We identified eight individual Golden Eagles during the winters of 2013–2014 and 2014–2015, with one detected during both winters. We detected eagles for 19 and 66 calendar days during the winters of 2013–2014 and 2014–2015, respectively, with two adult eagles detected for 30 and 31 calendar days in 2014–2015. Eagles typically scavenged on carcasses for a few days, left, and then returned when cameras were baited with another carcass, suggesting they had remained in the area. These observations suggest that large tracts of forests on the coastal plain may be important wintering areas for some Golden Eagles and, further, that other areas in the coastal plain of the southeastern United States may also harbor wintering eagles. Identification of wintering areas of Golden Eagles in the east will be an important step in the conservation of this protected species, and camera traps baited with carcasses can be an effective tool for such work.