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Exhibit highlights golden eagle and its landscape

Cara J

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Compared to the bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), the golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) seems to get overlooked. And compared to the peaks and parks of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, so does eastern Wyoming’s sagebrush steppe. An exhibit at the Buffalo Bill Center for the American West’s Draper Natural History Museum seeks to change that. The new permanent exhibit, “Monarch of the Skies: The Golden Eagle in Greater Yellowstone and the American West,” is based on nine years of research on Bureau of Land Management land by Chuck Preston, a TWS member and senior curator at the museum. “The golden eagle really is an icon of the open spaces of North America,” Preston said. Preston set out to gather data on golden eagle populations in Wyoming’s Bighorn Basin. He found the bird’s reproduction fluctuated each year — changes that appeared to be tied to the rising and falling of its chief prey base, desert cottontails (Sylvilagus audubonii). “The pattern is clear,” Preston said. “When cottontails decline, so does golden eagle reproduction.” But Preston decided he didn’t just want to record and publish the data in scientific journals. He also wanted to use golden eagles to inspire the public to recognize the uniqueness [...]

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