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Coyote & Bald Eagle Share Venison

This story contains photos of the animals and firefighters in ice rescue gear, along with facts on the bald eagle.

A coyote feeds on a deer on the ice. (Photo by Kathryn Sitar)
A coyote feeds on a deer on the ice. (Photo by Kathryn Sitar)
Kathryn and her daughter Shay Sitar of Jockey Hollow Road saw a coyote feeding on a deer atop a sheet of ice covering Steiner's Lake at 7 o'clock Thursday morning. Later in the day, a bald eagle dropped in to dine on the remains at around 4 p.m. The Sitars captured the scenes with Kathryn's camera.

By State law, Monroe Animal Control Officer Ed Risko said the remains of dead animals cannot be left in the water, so one of his officers drove to the property to retrieve what was left of the deer.

But because the animals had dragged the carcass to the edge of thin ice with flowing water underneath, Risko said it was too dangerous and town firefighters wearing ice rescue gear were called in to get the deer. (The Sitars also took photos of that.).

Risko said it would be dangerous to keep the deer remains on the lake, because people could try to remove it themselves or a dog could go over to investigate, only for a person or pet to fall through the ice.

Bald Eagles Make a Comeback

The following information on bald eagles is from the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP).

Best known as the national emblem of the United States of America, bald eagles were a common bird in North America in the early 1700's before a loss of habitat and nesting trees, food contamination from pesticides and illegal shooting made the bird an endangered species by 1973.

The pesticide DDT was widely accepted as a major reason for the population decline because it contaminated food eaten by eagles, causing them to lay eggs with weakened shells that cracked during incubation.

Bald eagle populations started to make a comeback after general use of DDT was banned in the U.S. in 1972 and the bird was removed from the federal Endangered Species List by 2007.

Bald eagles are still protected by the federal Bald Eagles and Golden Eagle Protection Act of 1940 and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

Winter Vacations in CT

The bald eagle was no longer a nesting species in Connecticut by the 1950's, but in 1992 a pair raised two young in Litchfield County. Leg bands revealed the birds came from a reintroduction project sponsored by the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. Five years later, a second pair of bald eagles successfully nested in Connecticut.  

The nesting population increased gradually, reaching 18 pairs making nesting attempts by 2010, when bald eagles were reclassified as threatened in Connecticut.

Wintering eagles come to Connecticut in search of open water to hunt for fish when the land and waters in Maine and Canada are frozen. When Connecticut's rivers and lakes freeze over as well, the birds continue to fly further south. Up to 100 eagles winter along major rivers and large reservoirs in Connecticut from December to early March.

Bald Eagle Facts

The following are a few facts about bald eagles provided by the DEEP:

  • Adult bald eagles have a snow-white head and tail and a brownish black body, are about 34 to 43 inches long, can weigh up to 14 pounds and have a wingspan of six to eight feet.
  • Bald eagles have a life expectancy of 25 to 30 years and longer in captivity.
  • Its natural year-round habitat includes lakes, marshes, rivers and seacoasts where there are tall trees nearby for nesting and roosting and plenty of fish for eating.
  • Though bald eagles primarily feed on fish, they are also opportunistic predators and scavengers.
  • Eagles kill prey by grasping it with their strong feet and sharp talons. They can carry their prey in flight, but not much more than four pounds. An eagle's beak is used solely for tearing flesh.
  • The flight speed of a bald eagle ranges from 36 to 44 mph.
Heather January 25, 2014 at 10:58 AM
We live by the lake and had a small pack of coyote in our yard at 11:00 pm. Good thing we seen them before taking the dog out.
Carl Kolchak January 25, 2014 at 12:53 PM
Is there really a law that says you cannot leave a deer carcass on a frozen lake? Seems like that might be something that happens all the time In more remote areas of the country. Does that lake supply drinking water to the community?
D V January 26, 2014 at 12:49 AM
There was a statute on the books prohibiting willfully depositing an animal carcass into a body of water, but it was repealed in 2012. Strange, because it seems like a sensible law. Maybe it was superfluous, in the face of more-inclusive laws prohibiting the placement of noxious substances of any sort into lake or stream.
Carl Kolchak January 26, 2014 at 09:10 AM
Makes sense, DV. It seems to me that the animal warden over-reacted here? This comes on top of the reports about geese that are too cold, and angry squirrels. Even worse, the coyote and the bald eagle were deprived of a meal. They would have cleaned up that carcass in no time, I'm sure.
Karen G. French January 26, 2014 at 09:36 AM
I agree with Carl. Why would he spend the towns/taxpayers time, money, & resources to upset the natural course of nature? It wasn't DEPOSITED IN the water anyway. It was DRAGGED ONTO the ice, big difference.
D V January 26, 2014 at 10:14 AM
When the ice melts, the carcass, or what's left of it, will be in the water. Not a good situation, especially if the water can get into wells or reservoir. I think it was prudent to remove it. The other critters will survive.

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