Bald Eagle Switches From Fish to Venison in Video of the Bird Attacking Whitetail Deer

by Josh Lanier

Oh, deer! That was surprising. A woman filming a fawn swimming outside of her Wisconsin home ended up capturing something much more shocking — an eagle attacking a whitetail deer.

Julie Smith told the Green Bay Press Gazette that she enjoys waking up early to watch the wildlife outside of her lake home. One morning, she noticed a whitetail fawn swimming just on the edge of the lake. She whipped out her cellphone hoping to capture the moment for her three sleeping grandchildren. But about 30 seconds in that all changes. That’s when a bald eagle swoops into the frame, clamps onto the drenched doe, and drowns it in the lake.

Smith was a seasoned pro, though. She didn’t flinch or recoil, she kept filming and captured the entire ordeal.

A Case of the Early Eagle Catches the Deer

Smith gets up early most mornings to sit in the stillness and take in the outdoors. This attack happened at about 5:30 a.m. in June 2017, just as the sun was rising over the water. She figured this might be her only chance before the busy July 4th weekend.

“I see amazing things when I get up in the morning, and I thought I would show this to my grandkids to show them what they miss when they sleep late in the morning,” Smith told National Geographic.

What isn’t included in the video is the eagle dragging the fawn onto land. Smith said it returned for a few days to scavenge on the kill. This isn’t as rare as you might think.

Steve Hein, the director of the Center for Wildlife Education at Georgia Southern University, called bald eagles opportunistic hunters.

“Bald eagles go after waterfowl, fish, and other small mammals. As apex predators, they will do whatever they need to do to survive,” he told National Geographic.

Smith told reporters that a neighbor had seen an eagle attack a swimming deer a week earlier. It may have been the same eagle, some have speculated, as it becomes more likely to happen if the eagle has done it before.