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Pictured: Mid-air carnage as eagle attacks baby deer

Rebecca Lewis
25 September 2013
This is the moment a golden eagle sinks its claws into a deer. (Linda Kerley/ Zoological Society London)
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This is the moment a golden eagle sinks its claws into a deer. (Linda Kerley/ Zoological Society London)

This is the moment a golden eagle appears to fly off with a young deer trapped in its talons.

Three pictures taken during a two second period shows a very one-sided tussle between the fearsome predator and a young sika deer in the wilderness of far-east Russia.

The incredible images were captured by researchers who had been using camera traps to monitor Siberian tigers in the Lazovskii State Nature Reserve.



Visiting researcher Dr Linda Kerley, from the Zoological Society of London, had spotted the dead deer with its bones stripped of its flesh in the snow. It was several yards away from where the camera traps were positioned.

She said: "I saw the deer carcass first as I approached the trap on a routine check to switch out memory cards and change batteries, but something felt wrong about it.

"There were no large carnivore tracks in the snow, and it looked like the deer had been running and then just stopped and died."

It was only when she got back to camp and checked over the images caught by the camera trap that she pieced together the mystery.

She added: "I couldn't believe what I was seeing.”

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View photos
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The images, taken in 2011 but published in the September issue of the 'Journal of Raptor Research', is proof that golden eagles hunt small deer.

The predatory birds are not afraid to take risks when it comes to food, said Dr. Jonathan Slaght of the Wildlife Conservation Society.

He said: "The most startling to me was a record from Norway in 2004, when a golden eagle swooped down and carried off a small, about three kg, brown bear cub trailing after its mother. Everybody knows not to mess with a brown bear sow with cubs, but that particular eagle was unfazed.”

Scientists said golden eagles are not normally a risk a to deer and there is no evidence such audacious attacks are impacting the population.

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