Eagle vs. deer

September 23, 2013, Wildlife Conservation Society
A camera trap set out for endangered Siberian (Amur) tigers in the Russian Far East photographed something far more rare: a golden eagle capturing a young sika deer. Credit: Linda Kerley, Zoological Society of London (ZSL)

A camera trap set out for endangered Siberian (Amur) tigers in the Russian Far East photographed something far more rare: a golden eagle capturing a young sika deer.

The three images only cover a two-second period, but show an adult golden eagle clinging to the deer's back. Its carcass was found two weeks later, just a few yards from the camera, initially puzzling researchers.

The paper and images appear in the September issue of the Journal of Raptor Research. Authors include Linda Kerley of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Jonathan Slaght of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

"I saw the deer carcass first as I approached the trap on a routine check to switch out and change batteries, but something felt wrong about it. There were no large carnivore tracks in the snow, and it looked like the deer had been running and then just stopped and died." said lead author Dr. Linda Kerley of ZSL, who runs the camera trap project. "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."

Co-author Dr. Jonathan Slaght of WCS noted that golden eagles have a long history of eyebrow-raising predation attempts. "The scientific literature is full of references to golden eagle attacks on different animals from around the world, from things as small as rabbits—their regular prey—to coyote and deer, and even one record in 2004 of an eagle taking a brown bear cub."

In this photo taken from a remote camera at the Lazovsky State Nature Reserve in the Primorye region of Russia's Far East on Dec. 8, 2011, a golden eagle attacks a deer. Remote cameras set up to track Siberian tigers in Russia have caught a golden eagle attack on a sika deer, snapping three photos as the massive bird digs its talons into the distressed animal's back. Golden eagles typically eat small birds or mammals, but they've also been known to target deer. It's rare for a camera to catch such an attack in progress. Credit: The Zoological Society of London

Researchers from ZSL have been using camera traps for six years to monitor Amur tigers in the Lazovskii State Nature Reserve in Primorye in the southern Russian Far East. The images from these traps usually record common , and occasionally a resident or transient tiger—information important to understanding structure.

The scientists underscore that do not regularly attack deer, and there is no evidence that such attacks have any impact on deer populations.

Dr. Kerley said, "I've been assessing causes of death in Russia for 18 years—this is the first time I've seen anything like this."

Dr. Slaght added, "In this case I think Linda just got really lucky and was able to document a very rare, opportunistic predation event." ZSL and WCS have been partnering on monitoring tigers and their prey in the Russian Far East since 2007, and are collaborating across the landscape to improve efficiency of anti-poaching teams. Both organizations have been working on Amur tiger conservation for approximately two decades (since 1995 and 1993, respectively).

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4.4 / 5 (7) Sep 23, 2013
wow, that's an amazing thing to catch on camera, and it couldn't have been lined up in the lense better.
5 / 5 (3) Sep 23, 2013
Great photo! Nature is so awesome and yet, we only know a very small portion of its many mysteries, wow!!!
2.6 / 5 (5) Sep 23, 2013
What an awesome bird. Here, wedge tailed eagles have been known to kill young kangaroos, and even prey on lambs.
3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 23, 2013
this is not as unusual as one would think
i have a sheep farm eagles often will land on 40-50 pound lambs and hold on until the lamb expires I will not go into greater details.
2 / 5 (2) Sep 24, 2013
You won't go into further comments? That's nature men.
Weird comment from the most successfull predator ever...
1.8 / 5 (5) Sep 24, 2013
That must have been a messy kill, it didn't crush it that's for sure.
1.7 / 5 (3) Sep 24, 2013
from the wiki page on golden eagles, describing the method most commonly used when golden eagles take out large prey like deer:

and lands on prey's back or neck, talons gripping firmly attempting to pierce vital organs or cause shock via a crushing grip to bone and cartilage. The hunting eagle typically rides its prey for several minutes with wings outstretched and flapping to maintain balance until the prey collapses, either as result of exhaustion, shock or internal injury

So it probably wan't all that messy. The eagle would have just made some small but deep holes with its tallons. Ouch, imagine having those digging directly into your spine. Probably feels something like a dentist drill. In the case of death from shock, the heart would be stopped before feeding begins, so not too much blood loss.
1.4 / 5 (11) Sep 24, 2013
Fake, if you zoom in, you can see the zipper.
2.1 / 5 (10) Sep 24, 2013

Here are all three frames...

Frame 1

Frame 2

Frame 3
1.5 / 5 (4) Sep 24, 2013
With so many different prey there must be more to this behavior than the (killer?)instinct.
1.3 / 5 (7) Sep 24, 2013
Eagle: "It wasn't me! I mean, really. Who ya gonna believe, me or your lyin' camera trap? "

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