The circle of life isn’t always fair to prey who become food for a more predatory master.
Also true: life isn’t always fair for predators who don’t catch their prey and succumb from hunger.
When video cameras were set up over bald eagle nests in Pittsburgh, that circle of life came into view for many observers who got unnerved by a disturbing scene.
Bald eagle parents bringing in food to their two eaglets last Tuesday appear to have fed them a young cat.
The limp kitty was brought to the nest and freaked out the squeamish.
“After reviewing the footage, we believe the cat was dead when it was brought to the nest,” said Rachel Handel, spokeswoman for the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania. “We don’t know if it was a pet or feral. It’s impossible to know if the cat was killed by the eagle or was a roadkill, but eagles are opportunists and just as apt to take something that’s already dead as something that’s alive to feed their young.”
On Facebook, people were divided into whether this was simply nature’s path or a sign that eagles were preying on domestic cats.
The Audobon Society of Western Pennsylvania responded:
We’ve received a number of questions about the Hays Bald Eagles bringing a cat into the nest yesterday. It’s true that they brought in a cat and it’s also true that they fed it to the eaglets. After reviewing the footage, we believe that the cat was dead when brought to the nest. While many may cringe at this, the eagles bring squirrels, rabbits, fish (and other animals) into the nest to eat multiple times each day. To people, the cat represents a pet but to the eagles and to other raptors, the cat is a way to sustain the eaglets and help them to grow. At Audubon, we encourage people to keep cats indoors for many reasons–primarily because cats themselves eat many, many songbirds. While seeing a cat in the nest was difficult for many, we’re hopeful that people will understand that this is a part of nature, and nature isn’t always kind or pretty. eagles.aswp.org
Pittsburgh eagle watchers have experienced other uncomfortable moments, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
A raccoon unsuccessfully attacked the Hays nest in 2014. No eggs survived the winter of 2015 at the Hays and Harmar sites, and this year one of three eggs did not survive at the Hays site. Recently at a monitored bald eagle nest in Hanover, York County, viewers watched as a 2-day-old eaglet died on camera. Its carcass was eventually tossed from the nest.
“The live stream provides an opportunity to view wildlife in its natural setting,” said Game Commission spokesman Travis Lau, via an April 1 statement about the Hanover eaglet. “Sometimes, that may include scenes that are difficult to watch. The Game Commission will not intervene in this situation.”