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Raptor Takes Down Deer

Cameras in remote Russia catch golden eagle killing Sika deer

A camera trap in Russia captured a golden eagle attacking and killing a small Sika deer. (Linda Kerley, Zoological Society of London) A camera trap in Russia captured a golden eagle attacking and killing a small Sika deer. (Linda Kerley, Zoological Society of London)

By: Mike Suchan, OutdoorChannel.com

A rare occurrence has been caught by a camera in the Russian wilds and gone viral. A scientist checking a game cam set up to photograph Siberian tigers in the Lazovskii State Nature Reserve discovered a real rarity – a golden eagle attacking and killing a Sika deer.

Dr. Linda Kerley of the Zoological Society of London saw the carcass as she went to get the photo card and change batteries. She thought it seemed odd since there were no tracks and only found the huge raptor to be the culprit after seeing the images.

“I’ve been assessing deer causes of death in Russia for 18 years — this is the first time I’ve seen anything like this,” 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.”

Amazing stuff, which has been reported by tons of news outlets.

The story brings to mind other attacks by birds of prey. One bogus report tells of an eagle snatching a small dog from unsuspecting RVers on a pit stop. The story goes how the woman was walking their pooch, and the next minute she’s hysterical that a raptor hijacked Princess.

The spoof continues that her husband consoles her and, once corralling her back inside the RV, busts out in celebration. The little mutt that he's seen take inordinate amounts of his wife's attention is gone. (Some guys buy their wives dogs to draw fire away.)

Snopes.com debunked the ability of birds of prey being able to carry off small canines as simple urban legend. Even small dogs are too much for their lift capabilities, which is about 4 pounds max for the largest of birds. But raptors most assuredly do attack pets.

It happened to Kara Keith in Virginia Beach, Va. A red-tailed hawk tried to pick on her nine-week-old whippet puppy named Arrow as it romped in some bushes. Keith would have none of that. She kicked that red-tail blue.

"I think the adrenaline just kicked in and my first reaction was 'No you are not taking my puppy!'" she told WAVY.com. Pretty gutsy, but Keith is trained as a veterinary technician. And that might be what allowed the bird to survive as she "kicked the hawk and then reached down and grabbed his right wing with my right hand and stepped on his right talon with my left foot."

She kept it pinned down while neighbors came and threw a blanket over the bird. Arrow was scared but only had a few scratches.

Bogus report? Another urban legend, you say. Hardly. We followed up on this one. The responsible Keith took the hungry hawk to Lisa Barlow, president of Wildlife Response, Inc. She is licensed in raptor rehabilitation.

Barlow, who treats about 100 birds a year, said the three-year-old male red tail was about a half pound under the normal 3 pounds and was having hunting difficulties.

"For whatever reason, he's not catching enough prey and a lot of times what will happen is they'll turn to something simple like a cat or a dog," she said. "It does happen. And up here it seems to happen on a not-so-unusual basis."

She said awhile back that a woman had her Chihuahua killed by a red-tailed hawk and another acquaintance lost a Yorkshire Terrier. Say, those can be under 4 pounds.

Red-tailed hawks can be seen frequently in winter alongside roads. Kids on a holiday road trip passed the time by counting no less than 62 hawks perched along a 100-mile stretch of four-lane highway. Why?

"Those are havens for rabbits and rats," Barlow said, adding that the birds are opportunistic hunters. "They're not going to spend a lot of time hunting. But they don't normally eat roadkill."

And it’s now known that bigger birds like the golden eagle, which only go around 10 pounds with a 7-foot wingspan, have put deer on their diet. The Sika can weigh 200 pounds, but the one in Russian was much smaller, maybe around 50 pounds.

The freak occurrence created some buzz in the OutdoorChannel.com office, and searches for golden eagles found a particularly brilliant hunting tactic. In Spain, the big mountain birds use the rocks on the valley floor as a weapon.

Oh, they don't pick them up. They swoop down on prey, a small goat-like critter, drag them off the cliff and drop them down the mountainside. Crack ‘em open and devour. Don't believe it? Check out this wild video below. Wait for it, there are incredible moments.

This video had our entire crew watching in amazement, but it was somewhat of a setup as the bird was trained to do this. Digging further we found a post saying the behavior had first been found in the wild.

The show it came from and its host are famous in Spain. Felix Rodriguez de la Fuente produced wildlife documentaries on a show called "El Hombre y la Tierra" (Man and the Earth) that ran from 1974-80. DVDs with spectacular footage remain on sale to this day.

The show was comparable to America's popular "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom" hosted by Marlin Perkins. Remember him? He was the guy who let assistant Jim Fowler do the dirty work. Johnny Carson spoofed Perkins like this: "I'll mix the martinis while Jim wrestles in the mud with the giant anaconda, and tries desperately to keep it from crushing his windpipe."

Marlin would have been amazed at the Russian golden eagle’s appetite and ambition to attack something more than five times its size. We’re just fascinated by the things we keep discovering about the animal kingdom.

Comment below on Facebook about the wildest things you’ve ever seen or heard of from the wilds.

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