By Gary Bogue
Tuesday, January 30th, 2007 at 10:17 am in Golden eagles.
There was a great little story on the Associated Press wires this morning. Here’s an excerpt:
“JUNEAU, Alaska — About 10,000 Juneau residents briefly lost power Sunday after a bald eagle lugging a deer head crashed into transmission lines.
“‘You have to live in Alaska to have this kind of outage scenario,’ said Gayle Wood, an Alaska Electric Light & Power spokeswoman. ‘This is the story of the overly ambitious eagle who evidently found a deer head in the landfill.’
“The hefty bounty apparently bogged down the eagle, which failed to clear transmission lines as it flew away from the landfill, she said. When a repair crew arrived, they found the eagle carcass with the deer head nearby. … “
This caught my attention because of a little project I did about 25 years ago. I had read another AP story about sheep in Texas that were supposedly getting carried off by golden eagles. A bunch of Texas ranchers were demanding that their state Game and Fish Department give them permission to shoot the eagles to protect their livestock.
I was involved in a wildlife rehabilitation program at that time and had worked with a lot of eagles. I knew that those big birds often had a hard enough time launching just themselves into the sky, without the added weight of a sheep. In fact, I was certain that was impossible and that the ranchers were just exaggerating the situation to blame their losses on something.
Male golden eagles weight about 8-9 pounds and females weigh 10-12 pounds. Adult sheep weigh 150-200 pounds. No way a golden eagle could budge one of those monsters. Even a newborn lamb weighing 5-8 pounds at birth would be more than most eagles could drag into the sky.
I decided to try an experiment. I had a big (12 pounds) female golden at the time, so I tied a long line to her jesses (leather straps on her legs like those used by falconers to control their hunting birds) and tried to see how much weight she could lift off the ground.
Without boring you with details, she was barely able to drag the carcass of a 5 pound rabbit off the ground and stay in the air for about 100 feet before coming back to earth in a crash landing. I think we can forget the “eagles carrying off sheep” story.
I’m also starting to wonder about the bald eagle carrying off the deer head in the above story. That head had to weigh at least 10-15 pounds. Seems a bit much for an 8-14 pound bald eagle.
Oh, well, I don’t think I’ll be collecting any deer heads to test this one out. Hummm. I wonder if this is a sign that I’m getting old.