A bald eagle beat the crap out of a government drone mapping the shoreline of Lake Michigan, ripping off its propeller and sending it plunging to the lake’s bottom, according to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy.
Yes. The agency operating the drone murdered by an eagle goes by the acronym EGLE.
The agency says the incident happened near Escanaba in the Upper Peninsula area of Michigan last month. EGLE environmental air quality analyst and drone pilot Hunter King was using the drone to map shoreline erosion when the drama started. The drone started spinning as it was headed for home, King says. “It was like a really bad rollercoaster ride,” he said. A couple of nearby eagle-watchers said they saw an eagle strike something, later confirmed to be the EGLE drone.
Why the eagle attacked the drone is still not totally clear, it could have been a fight for territory or the eagle might have thought the drone was prey. Whatever the case, it’s not unheard of for eagles to attack drones.
Over the past several years, erosion and flooding along Lake Michigan have led to habitat destruction and disruption to its ecosystem, as well as property damage. Scientist Lauren Fry told the Chicago Tribune earlier this year that several factors have contributed to Lake Michigan’s high waters, including warmer temperatures across the midwestern US. “Climate factors,” Fry told the Tribune, “are the primary drivers of water levels.”
But it’s not all bad news. EGLE says according to a 2019 US Fish and Wildlife Service survey, there are 849 active bald eagle nesting sites in Michigan. That’s up from the low point of just 76 sites in the 1970s.
So was the avenging bald eagle who attacked the drone some kind of climate activist seeking to protect the shoreline from further human destruction? Ha ha of course not (maybe) it’s just a bird. And while EGLE is meant to be a steward of Michigan’s environment, it’s worth noting that the department grew out of a 2019 restructuring of the state Department of Environmental Quality. That agency, also called DEQ, was widely criticized for its role in the Flint water crisis. Maybe not a bad idea to keep an eye on them, eagle.
The department said the destroyed drone was a $950 DJI Phantom 4 Pro Advanced, and it’s given up the search, leaving the drone to its watery grave. A spokesperson said in the agency’s lighthearted blog post that EGLE was looking into whether it might be able to issue a citation to the “rogue eagle” but I think maybe they should just let sleeping drones lie.
The lost drone will be replaced with a similar model, and EGLE says it may use other designs that make the drones look less like seagulls, to prevent future attacks.
Yeah, that bald eagle will definitely be waiting.