Rory Raccoon meets an American Eagle.

Two Sundays back I was out at the farm mowing the CRP field (per Uncle Sam’s request, see here) and had to make a run to town for more fuel. Along the way I came across a bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) working on a raccoon carcass (Procyon lotor).  While no longer an incredibly rare sight in Ohio, it is still not common to see eagles.  And this guy was the largest and closest I’d ever seen.  He was maybe 10 meters from the edge of the road, and as I came closest he looked me over and decided to abandon the carcass (I’m sure it was the car and not me personally).  On many occasions I’ve seen vultures leave a carcass only to circle around right away to resume their meal once the offending vehicle had passed.  So I slowly passed by, pulled off the road and looked to see if this eagle would do this circle-the-meal gambit.  He did circle above, but then decided to leave and I was unable to get a picture.

On the return trip I slowed as I approached the place where I’d seen the eagle hoping to get a picture. When I got to the spot where’d I’d seen him earlier there was nothing.  No eagle, and amazingly, no raccoon carcass.  I looked across the field and saw the eagle half way to the next road:

Eagle 1 - cropped

Eagle’s location on my return to the scene

Some might wonder how Rory came to be 10 meters into the field from the roadway in the first place. I wondered the same, and I have several hypotheses: 1) Rory, badly injured but not immediately killed by contact with a passing vehicle, wandered into the field but subsequently perished from his injuries.  2) Vehicle driver who hit Rory was so incensed by Rory’s impertinent road hogging that he or she stopped after running him over and chucked his poor carcass 10 meters into the field (this hypothesis requires a vehicle driver or passenger capable of chucking a dead raccoon 10 meters… and I’ll admit this does rule out a large fraction of our population).  Someone after the drive by raccoon squasher came upon the road kill and in a fit of civic responsibility decided the carcass should not besmirch the loveliness of a rural Ohio roadway (as for hypothesis #2, a capable raccoon chucker is needed.  Alcohol may have been involved?).  4) One of Rory’s traveling companions couldn’t stomach the visage of poor Rory’s carcass lying on the asphalt and drug the remains 10 meters into the field.  5) Poor Rory wasn’t hit on the road in the first place but died a peaceful natural death about 10 meters from a local road (this hypothesis fails to account for the badly disfigured head and shoulders of the carcass).  Or, my favorite, an eagle comes upon the road kill and in a fit of frustration with local traffic chasing him off the feast hoists the carcass and sets down 10 meters into the field to enjoy his discovery at leisure.  This eagle hoisting a raccoon seemed unlikely to me until the remains disappeared along with the eagle.

Eagle first site

Whole view from above pic. Arrow is approximately where the eagle and raccoon were on my first pass.

Eagle 4 - cropped

While taking the first picture above our eagle took flight again. Maybe it’s just me, but I do think there is something being carried away there.

Perhaps not conclusive proof that the eagle took the raccoon, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

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