Hunting Predator Hunting Coyote Hunting

Rare Trail Cam Photos Capture a Coyote Fighting Golden Eagles

"We promise these aren't AI, just nature doing its thing and our trail camera happened to be there!"
Dac Collins Avatar
A trail camera of two golden eagles, a coyote, and a deer carcass.
Photograph by HawkWatch International / via Instagram

Scavengers lead hard lives, especially in the desert where water holes and carrion are few and far between. These slim pickings often lead to competition, and a series of trail camera photos shared to Instagram recently shows one of these clashes in action.

The photographs, which were captured two years ago and re-shared on the Nature is Metal Instagram page yesterday, feature a showdown between a coyote and two golden eagles over a deer carcass. The eagles fiercely defend the carcass and eventually drive the coyote away — if only for the time being.

“The birds were able to scare away the coyote after a 30-minute confrontation,” Nature is Metal writes in the post, “but the coyote returned that evening to feast without competition.”

The two eagles use their sheer size and power in numbers to bully the coyote around. One photograph shows an eagle sinking one of its giant talons into the coyote, which appears to flatten its ears and howl in pain in response. In the following photo that was taken roughly six minutes later, the coyote comes back for a bite but is driven away once again by an eagle with outstretched talons.

Two golden eagles, a coyote, and a deer carcass.
The two eagles fought off the coyote for about 30 minutes before driving it away.

Photograph by HawkWatch International / via Instagram

These photographs were captured in Utah’s western desert on a trail camera that was placed there by researchers with HawkWatch International. The conservation organization based in Salt LakeCity did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but it pointed out that the photos were real and not deepfakes.

“We promise these aren’t AI,” HawkWatch wrote in the comments section, “just nature doing its thing and our trail camera happened to be there!”

Read Next: The Best Trail Cameras, Tested and Reviewed

This clarification was also made in response to some of the other comments, which noted that the photos almost look like paintings or exhibits from a natural history museum.  More than a few users asked if they could purchase a copy of one of the photos, and HawkWatch said it’s made prints available to order on the organization’s website — with the proceeds funding eagle research.

Although one might expect a wild canine to easily run off a couple raptors, a golden eagle is much bigger and tougher than your average bird of prey. These carnivores typically hunt small mammals like rabbits and prairie dogs, but there is ample photographic evidence of them taking down larger game like deer and mountain goats. A typical Western coyote weighs even less than these critters, so it wouldn’t stand much of a chance against a pair of eagles with a carcass to defend.