A Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy drone was mapping the shoreline of Lake Michigan in the remote Upper Peninsula of the state when a bald eagle took umbrage at the presence of the technological interloper and attacked it.
The EGLE drone lost its propeller in the fight and plummeted 160 feet into the cold, icy waters of northern Lake Michigan. It would have made a great viral video but, alas, no video has been forthcoming from the state’s EPA.
It was “eagle vs. EGLE” and our national bird had no problem dispatching its rival for air space.
The “brazen” eagle versus EGLE” clash took place while environmental quality analyst and drone pilot Hunter King was mapping erosion along the shoreline. The data is being used to help communities cope with rising water levels.
When King faced poor satellite reception, he pressed the “Go Home” button, recalling the drone back to him. But as it made its way home, it began “twirling furiously” during its tussle with the eagle.
“It was like a really bad rollercoaster ride,” said King.
The drone cost the state $950, so the scientists thought they ought to search for whatever remained. They enlisted a couple who had seen the battle in the sky and confirmed the bald eagle’s victory.
King and the couple searched for the drone for hours but returned empty handed. Several days later, EGLE Unmanned Aircraft Systems coordinator Arthur Ostaszewski brought a kayak to the search.
About 150 feet offshore, in four feet of water, Ostaszewski searched for two hours in a grid pattern, but also found nothing. It was like “I was playing Battleship and wanted to cover the entire board,” he said of his search.
Some wag at the EGLE office quipped, “The attack could have been a territorial squabble with the electronic foe, or just a hungry eagle,” he said. “Or maybe it did not like its name being misspelled.”
They apparently have more than one comedian at EGLE.
The agency’s drone team is looking into ways to reduce repeat attacks in the future, including altering the design of the drone so they look less like seagulls.
EGLE asked the state’s Department of Natural Resources to reprimand the eagle in some way, but the agency said it has no authority to issue a citation to individual, non-human wildlife.
“Unfortunately, there’s nothing we can do,” a spokesman for the department said. “Nature is a cruel and unforgiving mistress.”
Personally, I think the human EGLE scientist should be reprimanded for deliberately invading the bald eagle’s territory. There ought to be a fine, at least, or maybe even jail time considering the protected status of the bird.
Score it bald eagles: 1 — Greens 0.