There have long been rumors that eagles are not only capable of preying on lambs, but may even go so far as to take human infants when given the opportunity. Wildlife experts have consistently pooh-poohed such stories, dismissing them as folklore.
7:19 video of Golden Eagle(s?), Aquila chrysaetos, preying upon what appear to be Rupicapra pyrenaica, Izards or Pyrenaean chamois. A particularly effective hunting technique consists of snatching the goat-antelope off the cliff and simply dropping it.
A BBC natural history film crew gathered the extraordinary footage along a reindeer migration route in northern Finland.
It finally proves this eagle species does occasionally hunt reindeer, something suggested by forensic evidence and the local Sami people.
The crew filmed the behaviour while capturing footage of the reindeer migration for the BBC natural history series Life, though the images were shot at too far a distance to be included in the final cut of the high definition programme.
In the last 100 yards it went into a low powerful glide and hit the back of a calf
Television producer Dr Ted Oakes, cameraman Mr Barrie Britton and scientist Mr Harri Norberg set out to film the hunt along the northern edge of Finland.
For his PhD thesis Mr Norberg has spent the past few years studying how predators interact with the reindeer (Rangifer tarandus), which are known as caribou in North America.
Mr Norberg would tag calves, then search out those that had stopped moving to find out what had killed them.
By examining the bodies and the size and shape of claw, bite or talon marks, he ascertained that the majority of reindeer calves killed in the region had been attacked by eagles. ...
More often than not the golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) appeared to attack white calves, rather than tan or brown ones, though the crew did not know why.
According to Mr Norberg, it is usually immature golden eagles that kill the calves.
However, he also believes the birds occasionally hunt adult reindeer.
Another larger species of eagle lives in the region, the white-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla), but this bird is less aggressive than the golden eagle, and will often be chased off a reindeer carcass by its smaller relative.
The Sami people that live in the area say they have seen white-tailed eagles also killing reindeer, but this behaviour has yet to be scientifically documented.
Accounts of eagles carrying off lambs are sometimes discounted by skeptics, and stories of eagles posing a predation threat to small children have long provoked derision. Eagles just aren’t bold enough or strong enough, the experts will tell you.
One wonders if this article in Ursus, the journal of the International Association for Bear Research and Management won’t cause some to reconsider their views.
During spring 2004 an adult female brown bear (Ursus arctos) and her 3 cubs-of-the-year were observed outside their den on a south-facing low-alpine slope in central Norway. They remained near the den for 8–10 days and were, except for one day, observed daily by Totsås and other wardens of the Norwegian Nature Inspectorate. On 25 April, as the family was moving along the edge of a steep, treeless slope and down a snowdrift, the smallest cub, at the back of the group, was attacked by a golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos). The cub vocalized loudly as it was lifted off the ground and carried away. The eagle was still carrying the cub when it flew into cloud cover and was lost from view. Although no remains were found, it is probable that the eagle killed the cub. This paper describes the circumstances of the incident and relates it to other observations of attacks by eagles on young bears in Europe and North America.
Neil Everley of the Quorn with Golden Eagle/Steppe Eagle cross
As we noted last December, the infamous February 2005 Hunt Ban, enacted by Britain’s Labour Party as a gesture of class animosity and urban spite, banned hunting par force du chien (i.e., the traditional pursuit and reduction to possession of the quarry by a pack of hounds), but included certain loopholes: drag hunts (i.e., hunts in which the pack hunts an artificially created line of scent) are lawful; and hounds can be used to follow a scent and to flush out a fox, which may then be pursued by no more than two dogs, and ultimately shot or taken by means of falconry.
The strange consequence of this vile legislation has been a curious revival of falconry employing large raptors by several enterprising hunts. Last year, the Cheshire Hunt was seen taking to the field accompanied by a European Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo).
Hat tip to Steve Bodio. I’m less pessimistic than Steve’s correspondent Patrick, who evidently accompanied the link he sent Steve with prognostications of havoc.
Let’s see—amped up hounds, lots of people, a couple hundred horses, a panicked fox, and someone in a coat and tie handling a massive Golden Eagle cross in the middle of it all. Madness on stilts if you ask me! When the eagle is injured or killed, it will be described as an “accident” rather than planned stupidity.”
I’m sure some very interesting misadventures (and ones worth writing about!) will inevitably occur, but it’s all part of the game in the sporting field. And I’m rather pleased myself at the irony of the same detestable English Puritanism which nearly extinguished the ancient sport of falconry in the British Isles in the 17th century, inadvertently ushering it back in in the 21th century, and in a particularly colorful and grandiose form to boot.