Mid-air thief: Dramatic moment a bald eagle swoops down and LIFTS a fox carrying a rabbit 20 feet high

Mid-air thief: Dramatic moment a bald eagle swoops down and LIFTS a fox carrying a rabbit 20 feet high

Here’s a mid-air battle you don’t see every day – a hungry young fox, and an equally ravenous bald eagle fighting over a rabbit, more than 20 feet above ground.

These amazing photos were taken by photographers Kevin Ebi of LivingWilderness.com in the San Juan Island National Historical Park, San Juan Island in Washington.

Mr Ebi explained on his blog: ‘A couple of days ago, I captured an especially dramatic act of thievery. I saw a bald eagle steal a rabbit from a young red fox. Even more impressive: at times, this battle played out more than 20 feet in the air.

A young red fox (Vulpes vulpes) looks out from a burrow in the prairie at San Juan Island National Historical Park on San Juan Island, Washington

The red fox caught a rabbit and started carrying it across the meadow in the San Juan Island National Historical Park, San Juan Island in Washington

All of a sudden, a bald eagle swooped on the unsuspecting animal, to try and snatch its prey. Photographer Kevin Ebi said: ‘I panned my camera with it to capture the action. Then behind me, I heard the cry of a bald eagle. I turned around and saw it approaching fast’

The fox, with its jaw still clenched on the rabbit, inadvertently got snagged by the bald eagle. The bird lifted the young fox and rabbit into the sky triggering an even more dramatic struggle

The fox was being swung to and fro, 20 feet high about ground, but stubbornly hung on to its prey at the park

Hanging on by its teeth: Mr Ebi said the scene ‘was even more dramatic than I expected. I thought the fox would drop the rabbit, giving the eagle an easy dinner’

Bald eagles are skilled hunters, as the birds of prey can spot a fish from a mile away and fly to it in under a minute

‘There have been stories of bald eagles taking off with animals as large as young deer, but while they’re strong, they’re not that strong. They can comfortably lift about half their body weight — so about five or six pound,’ said Mr Ebi

The fox finally gives up. The mid-air tussle had ended within just eight seconds, according to the photographer

‘I spent the day watching several young foxes, called kits, rest and play on the prairie. I counted at least eight kits. There are probably more. Shortly before sunset, they started hunting. One fox managed to snag a rabbit’s foot. Several kits gave chase, but it made it to its den to feed.

 

‘About 15 minutes later, a red fox caught a rabbit and was carrying it across the meadow. I panned my camera with it to capture the action. Then behind me, I heard the cry of a bald eagle. I turned around and saw it approaching fast. I knew it wanted the rabbit. I intently trained my camera on the fox bracing for a split second of action.’

Mr Ebi said the scene ‘was even more dramatic than I expected. I thought the fox would drop the rabbit, giving the eagle an easy dinner.

‘To my surprise,Instead, the fox, with its jaw still clenched on the rabbit, inadvertently got snagged by the bald eagle. The eagle lifted the young fox and rabbit into the sky triggering an even more dramatic struggle.

‘The kit put up quite a fight, swinging back and forth. The eagle transferred the rabbit to its right talon and eventually let the fox go. The fox fell from enough height to trigger a small dust cloud when it hit the ground.

‘The whole battle was over in less than eight seconds.’

He said there is no question that bald eagles are skilled hunters, as the birds of prey can spot a fish from a mile away and fly to it in under a minute.

‘But they’re also masters of something scientists call kleptoparasitism: the art of stealing food from others,’ Mr Ebi added.

‘There have been stories of bald eagles taking off with animals as large as young deer, but while they’re strong, they’re not that strong. They can comfortably lift about half their body weight — so about five or six pounds. The young fox and rabbit were likely just beyond that weight.’

Interestingly, rabbits aren’t the foxes’ first choice for supper: ‘They actually prefer insects, berries and voles. But the berries and voles have been displaced by the rabbits, which have clear-cut the prairie with their vast burrows.’

The photographer added: ‘Don’t worry: the fox was fine. It shook off the encounter and resumed playing with its fellow kits. I took several pictures of it after the ordeal and couldn’t find a single scratch.’

Fisherman captures stunning shot of Bald Eagle swooping for fish

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