A camera set out in the Russian Far East to capture pictures of rare tigers got more than researchers ever bargained.
According to a press release from the Wildlife Conservation Society, the camera, which was set up to take photos of passing Siberian tigers, in a two-second period took three photos showing an eagle versus a deer.
Although the photos show the golden eagle clinging to the deer’s back, the researchers said they found its carcass two weeks later near the camera site.
“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,” Dr. Linda Kerley with Zoological Society of London, lead author of a paper about the photo published in Journal of Raptor Research, said in a statement. “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.”
Jonathan Slaght with the Wildlife Conservation Society, also an author on the paper, said other published research references golden eagles’ more brazen attacks on animals like coyote, deer and, once, a brown bear cub.
“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.
But they stress that it’s likely a rare occurrence — that eagle predation does not impact the deer population.
Slaght called the image taken on the camera as part of a six year project a “very rare, opportunistic predation event.”