Linda Kerley of the Zoological Society of London and her partner Jonathan Slaght set out trail cameras in the Russian Far East during the winter of 2011 in hopes of capturing Siberian tigers. Instead, they recorded these incredible photos of a golden eagle swooping down on a young sika deer. The photos were shot in 2011 and recently published in the Journal of Raptor Research. The photos are believed to be the first documentation of such an attack by a golden eagle.
“In 11 [years] of our investigations of ungulate kills in the southern Russian Far East, this is the first time we observed evidence of a Golden Eagle killing any deer species, despite locating hundreds of carcasses during that time and assessing cause of death,” the researchers wrote in a statement.
Researchers have believed for years that golden eagles are capable of taking down deer. There’s classic footage of the eagles dragging mountain goat kids off of cliffs. Researchers reported in 2005 that a golden eagle had killed a pronghorn. The scientists saw a golden eagle in the vicinity of a freshly killed 60-pound pronghorn. A necropsy found the carcass had no bite marks, but it did have puncture marks consistent with the type made by talons, according to NPR.org.
“It is true that we cannot say for sure how the deer died and it could have died from stress, but I do believe it happened quickly because the first vulture showed up and was photographed in the same camera trap just 68 minutes later followed by other avian and mammalian scavengers,” Kerley told NPR. “This was the first time I have ever photographed a vulture in a camera trap so I assume they were attracted to the deer carcass.”
The researchers found the deer carcass near where the trail camera had been placed. When they found no large predator tracks in the snow, they knew something was up. “There were no large carnivore tracks in the snow, and it looked like the deer had been running and then just stopped and died,” Kerley said. “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.”
Researchers in Russia captured this amazing series of photos of a golden eagle swooping down and catching a young sitka deer.