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Eagle Schools Deer on Dinosaur Ancestry

Posted by Richard Conniff on September 23, 2013

An eagle takes down a deer (Photo: WCS)

An eagle takes down a deer (Photo: WCS)

This is one of the better camera trap images ever.  Here are the details from the folks at the 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.

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 memory cards 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.”

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 prey species, and occasionally a resident or transient tiger—information important to understanding tiger population structure.

The scientists underscore that golden eagles 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 deer 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).

Here are the other two images in the series, just before:

EagleDeer1

And just after, heading out of frame:

EagleDeer3

6 Responses to “Eagle Schools Deer on Dinosaur Ancestry”

  1. […] Talk about a lucky shot! A camera trap set up by tiger researchers captures a golden eagle attacking and killing a sika deer.   […]

  2. […] seen those camera trap images of an eagle taking out a deer, right? Just in case you haven’t. You can go find that picture of a Rhinella marina toad that swallowed a bat on your […]

  3. […] long ago, I posted pictures of an eagle taking on a Saiga deer.  This time it’s an Australian wedge tailed eagle carrying off a fox.  These birds also […]

  4. […] in recent months we’ve seen an eagle tackling a saiga deer, and an Australian wedge-tailed eagle carrying off a […]

  5. See these predator eagles take down an Grizzly, Kangaroo,Wild Cat,Sloth,Wolf,Deer and a Man

    – Top 7 Best Eagle Attacks (GRIZZLY,KANGAROO…& MAN) HD -official video-

    eagle attack! Best Compilation Ever [HD]

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