Golden Eagle Attacking Sika Deer in Russia Captured on Camera

First Posted: Sep 24, 2013 04:30 AM EDT

A camera trap set up in the Russian Far East to capture some live action of the endangered Siberian tigers, instead caught rare images of a golden eagle hunting a young sika deer.

A series of three images taken in fraction seconds clearly depict an adult golden eagle clinging on to the back of a deer and dragging it down the snow. The eagle versus the deer attack is a rare find on cameras. It seems the eagle was successful in its unique attempt at hunting the deer as two weeks later the team  discovered the carcass of the same deer a few yards away from the camera. The team was initially puzzled by the discovery.

 "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. Linda Kerley of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), the lead author and camera trap project incharge, said in a news statement.

Dr. Jonathan Slaght, co-author added, "In this case I think Linda just got really lucky and was able to document a very rare, opportunistic predation event."

Kerley was conducting a routine check by switching the old batteries and memory card of the camera trap with new ones. It was then that she spotted the carcass of the deer lying in the snow and got more inquisitive of the situation.  "....There were no large carnivore tracks in the snow, and it looked like the deer had been running and then just stopped and died. 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," said Kerley.

There are plenty instances on record of  golden eagle attacks on various animals right from rabbits to coyote and even deer. An incident was recorded in 2004 of an eagle attacking a brown bear cub.

But deer attacks are rare. There is no evidence that such attacks have an impact on the population of the deer.

The research team has been using the camera trap for six years to monitor the Amur tigers in the Lazovskii State Nature Reserve in Primorye in the southern Russian Far East. Till date, the camera has captured common prey species or sometimes  a resident  tiger that help in understanding the population structure of the tiger.

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