Trapping Eagles, Watching for Crows

Catching eagles isn’t easy. A day’s work can last over 17 hours and often starts around 2 AM. This early hour allows us time to drive to the target site and get everything into position before dawn. For luring in the eagles we like to put something big on the ice like a deer carcass. Often I’ll set out carcasses over a period of time before the trapping date to get the eagles used to coming to a particular spot. I’m always on the lookout for road kill.
Sometimes waiting for the eagles to land for trapping can take all day- and sometimes despite having dozens of crows feasting on our deer offering, not a single eagle will venture to the ground.

Kathy and Pete setting up in the dark
This work of trapping eagles requires patience. Since we must keep a close eye to the frozen river we learn a lot about events that unfold around the bait. Watching crows is an entertaining way to pass the time. They are often the earliest arrivals to the bait. They arrive early in good numbers from their roost, and begin having breakfast on our deer—this is a good sign!
Crows can make a lot of noise. One of the crows acts like the sentinel or “watch crow.” You can spot this crow because it usually stands a bit away from the other crows and will sound the alarm if something looks threatening. Crows are hecklers- they can persistently harass other animals. We have even seen crows pull on eagles’ feathers as they gather together around the carcass bait.


Click images to see identifying characteristics.
Photo credit Laura Erickson

Ravens come to the bait, too. Compared to crows they are much larger and have powerful beaks. The crows leave the ravens alone but they hold their ground. Ravens are really alert and on edge. When they land on the ice they hop 2 to 3 feet in the air and flutter down. This bouncing up and down behavior makes me wonder if the ice were hot instead of cold!

Questions to think about:

  1. Why does trapping eagles require a lot of patience?
  2. Why do you think they have the trapping site set up so early?
  3. How would you summarize the capture experience?
  4. As crows arrive to the bait what are some of their behaviors?
  5. One of the crows takes the job of sentinel. What does this behavior tell you about how smart crows are?
  6. If you have never seen a raven land on the ground you would miss out on some unusual behavior. What do they do and why do you think would they might act this way?