A harrowing video shows a golden eagle swooping in to attack an 8-year-old girl in the central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan, but Wyoming children aren’t likely to be targeted by large raptors, a wildlife biologist said.
Sheep, and possibly small pets, are more likely targets for golden eagles in Wyoming, said Doug Brimeyer, deputy chief of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s Wildlife Division.
Game and Fish hasn’t had any reports of big raptors attacking people, he said.
“Golden eagles depredating on domestic livestock is something that happens in Wyoming,” Brimeyer told Cowboy State Daily.
Sheep, particularly lambs, seem to be the primary targets, Brimeyer said. Bald eagles, which also have healthy population in Wyoming, don’t seem to attack livestock or pets very often, though he’s not certain why that is.
Fatal golden eagle attacks on larger animals, such as adult sheep, are rare, but they have happened in Wyoming, he said.
Rabbits are golden eagles’ natural primary prey, Brimeyer said. That could be why smaller domestic animals, such as lambs, can tempt them. It’s a good idea to be wary of letting small dogs or cats stray too far if eagles are about.
“If you have a smaller animal outdoors, just be aware of what’s going on where you are,” he said.
Eagle Trapping Saved Sheep
A recent program to help curb eagle attacks on sheep by trapping some of the raptors seems to have helped, Brimeyer said.
Through the program, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service allowed falconers to capture up to six golden eagles a year, he said. Each eagle trapped must be “an immature bird,” and not one that is paired up with a mate or nesting.
Falconers are people who domesticate eagles, falcons and other raptors. They frequently train the birds to hunt small game for them. Falconry is a legal hunting method in Wyoming.
The program not only took trapped eagles away from sheep, it also conditions other eagles to be wary, he said.
It works, sheep rancher Allison Crane of Powell told Cowboy State Daily. She’s the executive director of the Wyoming Woolgrowers Association.
“The sheep producers are ecstatic with the results their seeing (from the trapping program),” she said. “And the results last for years. It trained the eagles not to come back, because they’re very intelligent birds.”