A digital camera trap captured the first photo of a golden eagle attacking a young sika deer in southern Russia.
The camera trap was originally set up by Linda Kerley of the Zoological Society of London and Jonathan Slaght of the Wildlife Conservation Society to photograph Siberian tigers.
In December 2011 the camera trap captured three images, spanning a period of two seconds, of an adult golden eagle grabbing onto the back of a six- to seven-month-old sika deer.
Full-grown golden eagles can weigh up to 14 pounds, while the study’s authors estimate that the deer weighed between 88 and 110 pounds.
A fourth image shows the deer’s carcass, found by Kerley two weeks after the incident when she was checking up on the camera.
The deer appeared to have fallen during the attack and died in the same place. All that remained was the hide and skeleton indicating that other scavengers had dropped by to pick at the body.
The photos, shown below, were published in the Journal of Raptor Research.
There are many documented accounts of golden eagles attacking and killing large mammals, including other species of deer, livestock, mountain goats, and even a brown bear cub, according to the study.
But this is the first time, in more than a decade of studying deer deaths in Russia, that Kerley has seen any deer killed by a golden eagle.
The authors point out that this is not a common occurrence and there is no evidence that these attacks have an impact on Russia’s deer population. But the photos are amazing.
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