Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) population trends in the western United States are unclear, but an increase in future threats is causing concern for the species. Understanding the resource requirements of Golden Eagles will be essential to the creation of an effective management approach. Yet, we currently lack sufficient information on the basic habitat requirements of Golden Eagles, which hinders creation of a successful conservation plan. We took a multiscaled approach to identify factors influencing habitat selection of breeding Golden Eagles in south-central Montana. In addition, we tested environmental factors we predicted would influence daily nest survival rates to understand environmental influences on breeding success. From the 2010–2013 nesting seasons, we located 45 nesting territories and identified 115 apparent nest initiations (defined as nests where eggs have apparently been laid). We collected 15,182 telemetry locations from 12 breeding Golden Eagles. We found that Golden Eagles selected home ranges based on the percent of intermixed shrub and grassland and terrain ruggedness. At the within-home range scale, Golden Eagles selected areas based on aspect, distance to their nest, and an interaction between proximity to prey habitat and terrain ruggedness. Despite Golden Eagle selection of rugged topography, daily nest survival was negatively influenced by topographic ruggedness. Based on our results, we suggest that to maintain breeding pairs of Golden Eagles in areas similar to our study area, management should focus on preserving adequate prey habitat in areas with rugged topography. However, territories with higher ruggedness may not be as productive; therefore, management goals should be clear and environmental factors influencing both habitat selection and reproductive success should be considered when possible.
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Vol. 49 • No. 4