Image: UP Ibalon Bicol
Soaring from its master’s arm, the mighty bird wheels high overhead, then dives like an arrow from the apex of its arc. On the plain floor, the lone wolf glances back while continuing its faltering trot onwards. Without warning, the giant raptor appears out of the sky, hitting its target at high velocity while clawing and raking with razor-sharp talons. The wolf bites back at its far more lightweight attacker and for a brief instant the bird of prey appears prone – but in an instant, it lunges back at its canine quarry, fixing it in an iron grip. The wolf struggles for a few seconds. Then it lies still.
Image: Doug Smith
Predators will turn prey: Wolves baiting a bison seen from the air.
Almost everywhere they roam, wolves are alpha predators. Even the brown bear will begrudgingly share territory and kills with wolf packs; only tigers can drive them away in the wild. A wolf can weigh more than 85 lbs and grow to over 6 feet, but in the golden eagle this formidable canine finds its match. Trained to track and kill by the Mongolian Kazakhs and Kyrgyzstanis of the Central Asian plains, the golden eagle is a fearful foe for wolves and foxes. These hapless animals are hunted for their fur pelts or to control the numbers that prey on the indigenous people’s livestock.
Image: Awesome Asia
Trained to kill: A golden eagle with an eagle hunter.
Weighing up to 15 lbs but with a wingspan reaching 7 feet, golden eagles are avian apex predators, ruling the skies over territories as large as 60 square miles. For the people of the steppes of Central Asia, training these awesome creatures is considered a high art; a tradition stretching back thousands of years whose secrets have been passed down through the generations. Training a golden eagle takes remarkable skill, toughness and patience. The bird’s brute size, bone-crushing talons and beak, and the potential danger it presents make it a formidable charge.