Every now and then I'm sent an incredible photo and a warning bell will go off. The last one was the photo of the black bear going after some bird feeders. The person who had sent me the photos had gotten if after a long line of forwarding. No one knew who originally sent the photo, but was sure the photos were taken near Detroit Lakes, MN. After some digging on "the Google" I found that some websites had it, but no one was taking credit for the photos. Hmmm, were they photo shopped? I found one message board where people were arguing about the trees in the background. This site said the photos were from Canada, but a tree expert said the trees weren't native to North American and someone else anonymously said the photos were taken at a zoo in Russia.
I still have no idea where the photos came from or what the story is.
Here is the latest:
It's a golden eagle in the middle of an altercation with a fox. The photo comes with a note "Taken by a hunter in Montana." My assessment of the situation is that the fox and magpie (small bird flying away on the right) were checking out the carcass and the golden decided that it wanted the food and made an attack on the fox to scare it away.
What makes me suspicious is that no one seems to be taking credit for the photo and there is no back story to go with it. Is it photo shopped? Was the eagle landing on the carcass and then someone added in the fox later? Was the scene staged on a game farm? With the position of the bird and fox, jesses on the eagle's feet could easily be edited out.
I've been sent the photo from a few sources and no one seems to know who took the photo. I did some checking on Google and found that there is no entry on Snopes, but the Snopes message boards are talking about the photo. At this time there doesn't appear to be a clear consensus on the photo. I have no doubt that this is possible. Golden eagles will go after large prey--especially younger eagle learning what they can and cannot hunt. I have seen young goldens take pot shots at deer and turkey. A few years ago there was golden that several people witnessed attacking white tailed deer. Usually, the young birds learn that it takes a lot of energy and rarely a food reward so they give up and end up going after easy to kill prey.
I hear stories from all types of people of goldens taking all sorts of animals. If someone tells them they witnessed an eagle carrying away sheep, deer, antelope, etc I don't believe them. Eagles are only able to carry half their weight in flight and considering goldens average between 10 - 12 pounds, it's not possible for them to carry away anything too heavy. Can they kill something bigger than they are that is on the ground and eat it gradually--you betcha! However, the risk of going after healthy prey is a danger to them, they tend to go for weak, injured, or young who do not have parents smart enough to protect them.
I kept searching for more on the photo and found a discussion on a hunting blog about golden eagles going after mule deer and other odd prey (someone in the comments section also references the young golden we had in MN that went after the deer and turkeys).
Here's an example from You Tube. This looks to be a Spanish video on falconry techniques with a golden eagle. From my limited understanding, they were taking the golden out to hunt and weren't aware of the fox and the golden decides to go for it. The falconer freaks out and goes to intervene. The eagle has a firm grip on the fox but the fox is putting up one heck of a fight. If the golden's feet get injured by bites from the fox, the bird will be at a huge risk for infection and probably die. The video is about a minute and a half long, watch it at your own risk.
THERE IS NOW AN UPDATE TO THIS POST HERE. THE PHOTO IS REAL.