Viewers of a Pittsburgh-area Audubon Society webcam feed were disturbed Tuesday when they witnessed a bald eagle return to its nest with a cat. The cat was eaten, live on webcam, by the bald eagle’s young eaglets, and the footage was preserved and later uploaded to YouTube.
Although you can watch the webcam footage of the baby bald eagles eating a cat here, viewer discretion is advised. Some viewers will find the footage disturbing.
According to Rachel Handel, a spokeswoman for the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania, the cat was likely dead at the time it appeared on the webcam. However, it is more difficult to say how it was killed or whether it was a feral or somebody’s pet.
“After reviewing the footage, we believe the cat was dead when it was brought to the nest,” Handel said via a Facebook post. “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.”
Handel also pointed out that while seeing baby bald eagles eat a cat, feral or not, may create a visceral reaction, the eagles bring prey animals to the nest several times each day, including small mammals like rabbits and squirrels.
“To people, the cat represents a pet,” Handel said via Facebook. “But to the eagles and to other raptors, the cat is a way to sustain the eaglets and help them to grow.”
Video from a nature webcam shows bald eagle feeding cat to her babies. Didn’t watch but day is ruined regardless. Nature is nature but oh no
— Kathryn Reaven (@kathrynnnelaine) April 28, 2016
@Manda_like_wine Usually, it’s the other way around.
— designing value (@charles_consult) April 28, 2016
In the post, which was released via the official Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania Facebook page, Handel flipped the script, urging cat owners to keep their pets indoors not for their own safety, but because cats are often responsible for killing songbirds.
“At Audubon, we encourage people to keep cats indoors for many reasons,” Handel wrote. “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.”
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that while viewers often watch the live webcam feed to see the progress of the baby eaglets as they grow up, this is far from the first time that the feed caught something uncomfortable or disturbing to watch.
In 2014, viewers watched as a raccoon attempted to attack the nest at the Hays site, and there have been several instances in recent years when some or all of the eggs at the site failed to survive the winter. Viewers of another Pennsylvania bald eagle cam also watched recently as a 2-day-old eaglet died live on webcam and was subsequently “stomped into the structure of the nest.”
“The cameras are up 24/7 and can show a side of nature that isn’t really pretty,” Handel said of the sometimes uncomfortable footage captured by the bald eagle webcam.
The eaglets are expected to be fledglings by mid-June, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and the live stream is available from the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania site if you still want to follow along.
Footage caught by the bald eagle webcams has been disturbing at times, and this is unlikely to be the last time that something uncomfortable is caught on the stream. However, the Audubon Society says that this unfiltered look at the realities of wildlife can help people to better understand animals like bald eagles.
Do you agree that the webcam is an important educational tool, or should it be reevaluated after the bald eagles were caught eating a cat?
[Photo by AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall]