Oh deer! Eagle kills deer in startling glimpse of alpha bird behavior.

A trip camera in Siberia caught images of a golden eagle attacking a deer. The images are surprising to scientists, but golden eagles in that part of the world are known to hunt larger prey.

Courtesy Zoological Society of London and Wildlife Conservation Society
Courtesy Zoological Society of London and Wildlife Conservation Society
Courtesy Zoological Society of London and Wildlife Conservation Society
The three images, taken over a two-second period, show an adult golden eagle in Siberia clinging to a deer’s back. The deer carcass was found two weeks later, just a few yards from the camera, initially puzzling researchers.

Three trip-camera images of a Siberian golden eagle taking down a deer are an extremely rare glimpse not only into nature at its wildest, but also into little known raptor behavior in an area of the world where hunters use the massive birds to hunt and kill wolves.

The images were taken at camera trap station in the Lazovsky Nature Reserve in Russia's Primorsky Territory, and published by the Journal of Raptor Research.

They show the eagle landing on the deer’s haunch but don’t give any clues as to how the bird killed the deer. Researcher Linda Kerley of the Zoological Society of London discovered the deer carcass, which posed a mystery. For one, there were no predator tracks around the carcass, and it appeared as if the deer had been running “and then stopped and died,” Ms. Kerley told Fox News.

The mystery of the fallen deer was solved later in the day when Kerley clicked through the trip-camera pictures and found the three images, captured in a span of only two seconds. “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” she said.

Such attacks are believed to be exceedingly rare, but they are far from unprecedented. Mongolian and Kazhak falconers, for example, have exploited the eagle’s size in order to use it to hunt and kill wolves, says Mark Fuller, director of the Raptor Research Center at Boise State University.

The photos of the bird taking down the deer “certainly says something about the capabilities of these animals, along with documented cases in North America of golden eagles taking down pronghorns and other large prey as opposed to taking rabbits, groundhogs, squirrels and so forth,” says Mr. Fuller. “The circumstances in which these predators are motivated to take on these riskier prey, however, is not well understood.”

Also unknown is how the bird finally meted out the killing blow. “The behavior is so uncommon that people haven’t actually observed it,” which means that scientists don’t yet “understand the sequence of behaviors that go into the ultimate success of a bird that size killing prey that’s much larger,” says Fuller.

There are several theories behind the behavior. One is that the eagle came upon a possibly injured deer unexpectedly, and took the opportunity. But it’s also clear that an individual bird can learn such behavior.

A golden eagle was reported to have taken a black bear cub in 2004, and there are a handful of reports of eagles attacking people. One such attack happened on Kodiak Island in 1991, where an amateur photographer was talon-slashed by a bald eagle protecting a nest. Another attack by a trained eagle on a child was recorded by a tourist to Mongolia in 2011.

“The circumstances in which these predators are motivated to take on riskier prey is not well understood, but I do think there is recognition by the predator that certain prey are potentially more risky than others,” Fuller says.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Oh deer! Eagle kills deer in startling glimpse of alpha bird behavior.
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/Environment/Wildlife/2013/0924/Oh-deer!-Eagle-kills-deer-in-startling-glimpse-of-alpha-bird-behavior
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe