Eagle vs Deer
Eagle vs Deer photo in Russia's far east (Linda Kerley ZSL)

A photo of a golden eagle attacking a dear has been captured by wildlife researchers working in Russia's far east.

The image shows the eagle clinging to the back of a young sika deer and came as a surprise to Linda Kerley, from the Zoological Society of London, who set the camera trap.

The team had been hoping to capture images of Siberian tigers in the area. When they went to see what photos had been taken, they found a deer that had been dead for two weeks.

Kerley 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 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.

"I've been assessing deer causes of death in Russia for 18 years - this is the first time I've seen anything like this."

Opportunisitc predation event

Jonoathan Slaght, from the Wildlife Conservation Society, also worked on the project. He said golden eagles have a reputation for trying their luck with large prey.

"The scientific literature is full of references to golden eagle attacks on different animals from around the world, from things as small as rabbits - their regular prey - to coyote and deer, and even one record in 2004 of an eagle taking a brown bear cub.

"In this case I think Linda just got really lucky and was able to document a very rare, opportunistic predation event."

The researchers have been using camera traps to monitor tigers in the Lazovskii State Nature Reserve in Primorye for six years. The images normally show common prey animals and the occasional tiger.

Researchers hope to help improve the efficiency of anti-poaching teams located in the park.