Sacajawea Audubon

2017 Bridger Mountains Raptor Count – 27th Season

Bridger Hawk Watch

The Bridger Ridge provides viewing one of the largest Golden Eagle migrations known in the lower 48 states. Recent Golden Eagle count totals have varied from 1,000 to 1,400 eagles per season, with up to 200 individuals tallied on peak migration days (usually during the first two weeks of October). Data obtained over the last 27 years has provided scientists with valuable information about trends in Golden Eagles and other raptor populations.

Thanks to the generous support of Sacajawea Audubon Society, August 27th marked the start of the 27th consecutive season of raptor migration research along the crest of the Bridger Mountains. The count will continue through the first week in November.  Montana Audubon, in partnership with HawkWatch International (HWI), coordinated this scientific project for the past 8 seasons. HWI initiated these annual counts in 1991.  This year, Sacajawea Audubon has taken over coordination of the project from Montana Audubon.  This means a financial committment of $13,000.

These majestic birds use the energy-saving updrafts created by strong winds along the crest of the Bridgers to migrate south. The long-term data collected at the Bridger site helps scientists learn about regional and continental raptor population trends. Most importantly, the Bridger project is designed to monitor widespread environmental changes, using these apex predators as valuable barometers of ecological health.

Steve Hoffman, former Executive Director at Montana Audubon emphasizes: “The Bridger Project is the most important migration site in the western United States for monitoring the health and trends of Golden Eagle populations.  The Bridger data are especially important now because there is scientific evidence for long-term declines in Golden Eagle numbers across much of western North America. As a result, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and other wildlife conservation agencies are intensifying research efforts to learn more about Golden Eagles and what might be causing this downward trend.”

Hawk counters Bret Davis and Adam Bradley welcome visitors on the ridge, so grab your binoculars, down jacket and make the hike up!

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