Responses of bald eagles to human activity during the summer in interior Alaska

Robert J. Steidl, Robert G. Anthony

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

32 Scopus citations


Along narrow rivers, spatial restriction of human use based on wildlife responses can effectively eliminate the entire river corridor from human use. Therefore, if river use by both wildlife and humans is a goal, an alternative management strategy is necessary. We measured flush response rate and flush distance of breeding and nonbreeding Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) to recreational boating along the Gulkana River in interior Alaska from 1989 to 1992. Eagle responses to our nonmotorized boat were governed by the context within which human-eagle encounters occurred. Flush response rate of nonbreeding eagles decreased as perch height and its distance from the river's edge increased, increased as the season progressed and as eagle group size increased, was lower for juveniles (20%) than other age classes (49-65%), and varied with the existing level of human activity in a geographic location (P < 0.001 for all parameters). Flush distance of nonbreeding eagles increased as the distance a disturbance was first visible to a perched eagle increased, as perch height and its distance from the river's edge increased, and as the season progressed. In contrast to flush response, flush distance was strongly associated with age and was greatest for adults, least for juveniles, and intermediate for subadults. Breeding adults were much less likely to flush than nonbreeding adults, and flushed at lesser distances. We recommend that along narrow wilderness rivers, the impacts of human activity on Bald Eagle populations be regulated with temporal, rather than spatial, restrictions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)482-491
Number of pages10
JournalEcological Applications
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 1996
Externally publishedYes



  • Alaska
  • Bald eagles
  • Disturbance context
  • Flush distance
  • Flush response
  • Haliaeetus leucocephalus
  • Recreation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology

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