Researchers in Russia were stunned when a camera trap set up to capture images of Siberian tigers wound up capturing the rare and astonishing moment an eagle attacked a deer.
It all happened at the Lazovsky Nature Reserve in the Russian Far East, according to a written release from the Wildlife Conservation Society. Photos show a golden eagle swooping down to attack a young sika deer and digging in its talons. Just two seconds of the assault were recorded.
Two weeks later, researchers found the remains of a deer just a few yards from their camera.
"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," Dr. Linda Kerley of the Zoological Society of London said, via the Wildlife Conservation Society. "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 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.”
The golden eagle typically measures between 33 and 38 inches, weighs 6 to 15 pounds and has a wingspan of 6 to 7.5 feet, according to National Geographic. When hunting, it can dive at speeds upwards of 150 mph to catch prey.
Dr. Jonathan Slaght of the Wildlife Conservation Society noted in the press release that golden eagles have been known to go after large prey, including coyotes, deer and bear cubs. Ranchers once killed these birds for fear they would attack livestock, according to National Geographic; however, studies showed eagles' impact on larger animals was minimal.
Kaley, who co-authored a paper on the stunning attack for the Journal of Raptor Research, says she has not seen anything like this in the 18 years she has been assessing causes of death of deer in the region.
Guess that phony viral video of an eagle snatching a baby wasn't so far-fetched after all.
PHOTOS, courtesy of the Zoological Society of London: