Home » That’s a big bird: Harper the Golden Eagle back in Bernheim forest

That’s a big bird: Harper the Golden Eagle back in Bernheim forest

KDFWR’s Loren Taylor with Harper just before he was released.
KDFWR’s Loren Taylor with Harper just before he was released.

Clermont, Ky. – Over the weekend, Bernheim officials, along with representatives from the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR), briefly recaptured the Golden Eagle known as Harper. They assessed the bird’s health and removed the malfunctioning transmitter they had outfitted the raptor with last winter.

The public helped name the bird last year, with Harper beating the names Ike and Bernie.  Founder Isaac W. Bernheim made his fortune in the whisky business and I.W. Harper was the brand name of his bourbon.

The team tracked Harper all the way to Northern Manitoba, Canada, but in May of last year, the transmitter stopped sending data.  “We assumed it had either fallen off or was malfunctioning, but we also wondered if Harper had perished,” said Bernheim Forest Manager, Andrew Berry.

Those concerns were allayed in late December when Berry and the team first spotted Harper on trail cameras less than a mile from the site where they first captured him. According the Berry, the bird appeared healthy.  His leg band was visible.

“We could also see that the transmitter was still attached but had shifted to the chest area,” said Berry.  “While we knew it hadn’t interfered with Harper’s annual migration and wasn’t hindering his flying, we decided we would try to recapture him and remove it.”

With the warmer temperatures this past weekend, the team felt the time was right to make the capture attempt and was successful.

“We discovered that he had chewed through one of the straps, allowing the transmitter to shift. Our team was ecstatic to know that after a year we were able to recapture Harper, free him from the malfunctioned transmitter, and release him back into Bernheim,” said Berry.

Berry said that the team also assessed his health and are happy to report he’s doing well.

Both Berry and Bernheim’s Executive Director Dr. Mark Wourms feel certain we haven’t seen the last of this majestic bird.

Wourms pointed to Bernheim’s large forest block as an ideal environment for Harper to spend the winter.  “Harper shows all of us the importance of growing and protecting key stopovers and habitats, like Bernheim Forest, that these birds require,” said Wourms.

The first of its kind research in the state about Harper was a collaborative project between Bernheim and KDFWR, with funding support from the Beckham Bird Club.

Golden Eagles found in Kentucky during the winter are distinct from the more abundant population found throughout the western United States. Collectively known as the “Eastern Golden Eagles,” these birds are believed to have very limited interaction, if any at all, with the western population.