[caption id="attachment_70984" align="aligncenter" width="624"] A camera trap captures a golden eagle attacking a young sika deer at Lazovskii State Nature Reserve in the southern Russian Far East on Dec. 1, 2011.
[/caption]Eagle attack captured in stunning photo sequence
An incredible series of photographs captured inadvertently by a camera trap shows a golden eagle swooping down on a young Sika Deer in a snow-covered forest.
According to NPR, Linda Kerley of the London Zoological Society had set up the cameras as part of an effort to monitor the endangered Amur tigers in the Lazovskii State Nature Reserve in Primorye, Russia. Instead she found a sequence of images that clearly show this rare act of predation
"In 11 [years] of our investigations of ungulate kills in the southern Russian Far East, this is the first time we observed evidence of a Golden Eagle killing any deer species, despite locating hundreds of carcasses during that time and assessing cause of death," the authors wrote.
In a statement, Kerley said they first came upon the carcass during a routine camera check and she immediately knew something was odd.
"There were no large carnivore tracks in the snow, and it looked like the deer had been running and then just stopped and died," Kerley said. "It was only after we got back to camp that I checked the images from the camera and pieced everything together. I couldn't believe what I was seeing."
On how the deer likely died Dr. Linda Kerley said:
"It is true that we cannot say for sure how the deer died and it could have died from stress, but I do believe it happened quickly because the first vulture showed up and was photographed in the same camera trap just 68 minutes later followed by other avian and mammalian scavengers. This was the first time I have ever photographed a vulture in a camera trap so I assume they were attracted to the deer carcass. Tracks in snow also showed no indication that the deer struggled for long."
Golden Eagles are a very powerful predator, with a wingspan of 6 to 7.5 feet. They can swoop down on their prey at speeds that reach an impressive 150 miles per hour.
Because of their size and strength, golden eagles have been used in falconry for centuries, including for deer hunting, and have been known to take on much larger animals, even wolves. However in these cases it is the human handler who dispatches the prey animal after the bird has taken it down.
Wild golden eagles are known to predate on large prey such as deer and goats, but it is a relatively rare occurrence and most often done in an opportunistic fashion, such as by dragging the prey off cliffs. This is the first photographic evidence of an eagle taking down and killing a full grown deer.
[caption id="attachment_70985" align="aligncenter" width="634"] Endgame: The eagle then drags the deer out of shot to make its me[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_70986" align="aligncenter" width="634"] Drag: The bird can then be seen digging its claws in and starting to drag its prey away
[caption id="attachment_70987" align="aligncenter" width="634"] Impact: In this shot the eagle makes contact with the deer[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_70990" align="aligncenter" width="634"] Messy end: The remains of the deer were found two weeks after the attack, near where the shots had been taken
[caption id="attachment_70991" align="aligncenter" width="634"] Swoop: This golden eagle soars in and sinks its claws into a Sika deer
[caption id="attachment_70989" align="aligncenter" width="634"] Dig in: The powerful bird starts to lift the panicked animal from the ground
[caption id="attachment_70988" align="aligncenter" width="634"] Lift-off: The eagle spreads its wings before lifting the deer from the ground
Eagle Attacking Deer video
On The Web:
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Golden Eagle Attacks Deer, A Photo Of An Epic Confrontation
Eagle vs Deer: Rare Images Caught on Camera