NEW YORK, Sept. 24 (UPI) -- A remote camera in Russia's Far East set up to track endangered Siberian tigers captured an image of a golden eagle killing a young sika deer.
The photographs were taken on Dec. 1, 2011, but only recently published, the Wildlife Conservation Society said Monday. Linda Kerley of the Zoological Society of London and Jonathan Slaght of the WCS, which operates New York's Bronx Zoo, were studying tigers in the Lazovskii State Nature Reserve in Primorye.
Kerley said she knew something unusual was going on before she ever saw the pictures. When she got the memory card from one of the cameras, she spotted a deer carcass in the snow.
"Something felt wrong about it," Kerley said. "There were no large carnivore tracks in the snow, and it looked like the deer had been running and then just stopped and died."
On the memory card, she found three images that showed a golden eagle dropping to the deer's back and inflicting fatal wounds. She said that in almost two decades of studying wildlife in Siberia this is the first proof she has found of eagles preying on the deer, a medium-sized species native to East Asia.
Slaght said eagles take a wide variety of prey with at least one documented instance of one killing a bear cub. He and Kerley do not believe eagles kill enough sika deer to affect the species' numbers.
Kerley and Slaght reported on the photographs in the Journal of Raptor Research.