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Astonishing moment eagle swoops on deer, flies off with it

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It is a rare and brutal, an example of nature at work.

A powerful golden eagle swoops on an unsuspecting Sika deer, digs in its claws in and carries its prey off to death.

These images, captured by zoologists in a nature reserve the remote Lazovsky region of southeast Russia, show a particularly audacious attack which sees the eagle fell prey several times its own size.

Although the golden eagle is notorious for its bold hunts, and have been caught attacking coyote and even a young bear, experts believe this is the first documented attack on a deer.

The three frame show just two seconds of action, and were taken accidentally by scientists researching the endangered Siberian tiger in 2011.

The pictures, and a description of the event, were published in this month’s Journal of Raptor Research.

Linda Kerley, of the Zoological Society of London, found the shots during a routine equipment check.

After discovering the astonishing photograph, Ms Kerley and her colleagues found the carcass of the unfortunate deer just yards away.

She said: “It’s the first time I’ve seen anything like it. It’s rare for golden eagles to snatch up deer.

“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.”

Dr Jonathan Slaght, from the Wildlife Conservation Society - which works with the Zoological Soceity, said: “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.”

Golden eagles are one of the most widespread birds of prey in the world, and live in areas of Europe, Asia and North America.

They are renowned hunters, capable of killing prey much larger than themselves with their deadly talons. The birds weigh 12lbs, have an 8ft wingspan and can fly at speeds in excess of 100mph.

Sika deer can grow to weigh more than 300lbs, but the victim of the pictured attack was not fully-grown.

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