Editor’s Note: This post contains photographs of animal predators and their prey.
Every winter since 2010, after Meadowcroft has closed for the season, the site has taken part in a research study focusing on eastern golden eagles. The rural 275-acre campus provides an ideal location as a “camera trap site” for taking covert photos of eagles or any other wildlife with a motion-activated camera when they come to feed on the roadkill bait.
The goal of this scientific study, headed by wildlife biologist Dr. Todd Katzner of the U.S. Geological Survey, is to estimate the size of the golden eagle population wintering in the Eastern U.S. With nearly 200 camera trap sites from Maine to Alabama, millions of photographs have been taken. When a golden eagle is photographed, researchers use a modified facial-recognition software to identify the individual bird and include it in the population estimate.
The Meadowcroft camera has not yet captured a golden eagle photo, however, this project has allowed us to document a variety of interesting species including a bald eagle. Because the camera has infrared capabilities, even nighttime visitors are photographed. In addition to the bald eagle, the Meadowcroft inventory includes other raptors such as red-tailed hawks, great horned owls, rough-legged hawks, red-shouldered hawks, and vultures. Many mammals have been caught snacking on the bait as well, including coyotes, bobcats, foxes, raccoons, opossums, skunks, and feral cats.
Watch for the trail camera photo of the week this winter on Meadowcroft’s Facebook page.
David Scofield is the director of Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village.