golden eagle
Golden eagles of Norway are posing a threat to the country’s reindeer populationReuters

What do the Grinch and Norwegian golden eagles have in common? They both want to put a stop to Christmas. Well, not quite, but the flying predator does want to slaughter Rudolph and co.

Well, again, that's probably not true but harsh winters has led to a lack of available prey for golden eagles in the Scandinavian country, so they have turned their sights to bigger opposition. The bird, which has an impressive wingspan of 2m, has been known to attack calves, but as winters get harsher and deforestation reduces its prey, it has no choice but to go after heftier foe.

To get their antlered feast, the eagles swoop down and plunge their sharp talons into their back, bursting the blood vessels under the spine. Then they play the waiting game as the reindeers slowly bleeds out. Merry Christmas.

During the spring time, it is common for eagles to attack the calves. Olav Strand at the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, told New Scientist: "During that period eagles can be very active. In the calving area you see them operating more or less every day." However, in recent years he has seen them take down reindeer which weigh around 60kg. But he adds this is a rare occurrence and usually happens in the early winter after bad weather has reduced the number of its normal prey such as hares.

What's more of a cause for concern for the reindeer is that they are losing habitat due to human activity. Their population is considered healthy but vulnerable in Norway as migration routes have been blocked by roads and railways, making them an easier target for golden eagles as they become grouped in smaller and smaller locations.

Strand added: "It's possible to expect some kind of interaction between the level of fragmentation and the coming climate change. Through history, the only defence reindeers have had to climate and predators has been to move."