Bald eagles & coyotes

Posted by: Raleigh Robertson

On the morning of 3 February 2010,  at about 8 AM,  looking across the lake from our farm on Lake Opinicon, I spotted some activities near the far shore.  With my spotting scope, I discovered there were 2 Bald Eagles and 2 Ravens, feeding on a deer carcass.  It appeared to be a relatively fresh kill, since I could see the birds pulling on meat that wasn’t frozen, even though it had been minus 10 C overnight.  The Eagle plumage was quite distinctive, indicating one 2nd year, and one 3rd year.  About an hour later, there were 3 coyotes at the kill.  All were beautiful animals, in excellent pelage.  From watching urination events, I think one was male, one female, and the third, of unknown sex, was definitely subordinate – it consistently was submissive to the other two, and it often stayed off to the side, seeming to act like a sentinel.  The coyotes were eating, but also trying to haul the carcass over to the shoreline.  I later walked across the ice to check out the carcass, which was about 20 m from the far shore.  It was indeed fresh, meat along backbone still unfrozen, and it had been mostly consumed.  It was a small doe, possibly a yearling.  I think it was likely killed by coyotes during the night (the ice on the lake was quite bare, smooth and slippery,  following heavy rains a week ago, so a deer driven to the lake by coyotes would have very little traction), and then the pack of coyotes would have gorged on it, eating much of the meat.  Then at daylight, the scavenger birds had come in.  When watching the coyotes, I saw one taking a deer leg off into the woods, so the carcass was largely dismembered by 9 AM.  By about 10 AM, the coyotes were gone, and there was an adult Bald Eagle feeding at the carcass.   Then, by about 1 PM, there was a second year Bald Eagle at the carcass, and finally, at about 4 PM, there were 5 eagles and 2 ravens at the carcass.  The 5 eagles included 2 juveniles, one 2nd year, one 3rd year, and one uncertain, probably 2nd or 3rd year.

Interestingly, in later browsing the Bird Studies Canada website, and following their links to the eagle tracker –  based on the movements of Spirit, a bird tagged with a satellite transmitter in 2006, it is possible that the adult eagle I saw was this bird.  It’s location at the time seemed to be very much centred around Lake Opinicon.

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