The golden eagle seeks open terrain throughout mountains, foothills, and plains.
This powerful bird of prey is widespread in the wilder country of North America, Europe, and Asia. Approximately the size of the bald eagle, the golden is less of a scavenger and more of a predator, regularly taking prey up to the size of foxes and cranes. Also spiritually important to many Native American tribes.
From 1999 through 2006, golden eagles were live-trapped and removed from the park, because golden eagle predation was the primary source of mortality for island foxes and was responsible for the massive island fox decline from 1994–2000. Until the 1990s, golden eagles never bred on the Channel Islands. They were able to colonize the islands because of several factors. First, bald eagles were absent from the Channel Islands, having disappeared by the mid-20th century due to both human persecution and the presence of DDT in the environment. Territorial bald eagles may have deterred goldens from establishing. Second, golden eagles arriving on the islands found food sources that were not available prior to the ranching era: feral pigs on Santa Cruz Island, and mule deer on Santa Rosa. Golden eagles nested on both Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa Islands form the mid-1990s to as recently as 2006. In order to mitigate golden eagle predation on island foxes, The Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group, with the support of the Park Service and The Nature Conservancy, relocated golden eagles to distant sites on the California mainland. A total of 44 golden eagles, including 10 eaglets born on the islands, were trapped and relocated, and monitoring indicates that none have returned. Other ecosystem-wide actions, such as the removal of feral pigs from Santa Cruz Island and the restoration of bald eagles, have tipped the balance in favor of island foxes and away from continued golden eagle use of the islands. As of 2009 the occasional golden eagle visits the islands, but the level of predation on island foxes is negligible; all three island fox subspecies in the park are recovering rapidly.