Carol McIntyre dedicated much of her career to understanding Alaska’s golden eagles. NPS photo/Kent Miller.
Though bald eagles often take the spotlight among Alaska’s raptors, Carol McIntyre has dedicated the majority of her three-decade career to understanding Alaska’s golden eagles. Her research on golden eagles in Denali National Park is one of the longest-running studies of the species in the world and includes important discoveries on the whereabouts of juvenile eagles.
Many golden eagles, including juveniles, leave Alaska and northern Canada to spend winters in southwestern Canada, the western contiguous United States, and northern Mexico. Young eagles that aren’t breeding return to Alaska a month or more later than adult eagles who have limited time to lay eggs and raise young. Many juveniles will continue past interior Alaska and spend a large portion of their summer on Alaska’s north slope. Golden eagles are most often associated with mountain ecosystems, but this discovery sheds light on the importance of wetlands in Alaska’s far north for the continued health of Denali’s golden eagle population. “Trying to understand what types of challenges those birds face to survive long enough to enter the breeding population is one of the really important reasons we’re doing this study,” McIntyre says.
Though she says it’s been an incredible gift to spend a career working with such a magnificent bird in a place like Denali, McIntyre emphasized that her work was never about chasing new experiences for herself. “It’s always been about the birds and knowing that we need to be good stewards of the planet,” she says.