Biologists who set up a camera to take photos of tigers roaming eastern Russia accidentally captured something a lot more interesting: an eagle attacking a deer.
In 2011, Linda Kerley, a wildlife biologist at the London Zoological Society, and Jonathan Slaght of the Wildlife Conservation Society mounted a digital camera onto an old power line in the middle of Lazovskii State Nature Reserve in Russia's Far East. Their intention had been to take photos of Siberian tigers — the camera had an infrared sensor that was triggered by heat from the animals — but one day something else activated the lens.
When Kerley went to retrieve the memory card from the camera in December 2011, she noticed a bloodied deer carcass lying in the snow.
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"Something felt wrong about it," Kerley said in a prepared statement obtained by the Los Angeles Times.
"There were no large carnivore tracks in the snow, and it looked like the deer had been running and then just stopped and died."
She reviewed the camera images and was shocked to see a series of shots of a large golden eagle attacking a 6- to 7-month-old sika deer.
"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.
The photo and an academic paper authored by Kerley and Slaght was recently published in the Journal of Raptor Research.
"The size difference is astounding — that an eagle can look at a deer and think I can kill that," Slaght told the New York Daily News.
Though the discovery was astounding to see in detail, it's not all that unusual for golden eagles to attack a variety of prey.
"From things as small as rabbits — their regular prey — to coyote and deer, and even one record in 2004 of an eagle taking a brown bear cub," Slaght said.
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