While eagles commonly symbolize grace, freedom, and other lofty ideals, they might be an even better analogue for the sheer brutality of nature. From knocking chamois off cliffs in the Himalaya to catching monkeys mid-leap to ripping the bellies out of spawning salmon, these largest birds of prey exemplify predation in all its bloodstained glory.
That savagery is perhaps never more evident than in this video of a golden eagle eating a still living, standing, agonized pronghorn antelope in the American West. Eagle talons can exert 440 pounds per square inch of pressure, 15 times more than a human hand, and lock in an unshakeable death grip—as this eagle clearly demonstrates. And this raptor’s dietary choices might seem surprising at first, but not when you consider that biologists have documented golden eagles killing and eating more than 400 species of vertebrate animals across their Holarctic native range that includes most of the Northern Hemisphere—North America, North Africa, Europe, and Asia.
The fifth largest of the eagles, goldens have tipped scales to 17 pounds and are well known for entering the ring with combatants well above their weight class: Pigs, sheep, and goats (domestic, feral, and wild); whitetail, mule deer, red deer, and caribou; countless bird, fish, and mammal species; housecats; huge snakes, tortoises, and even sea turtles are all on the table. Basically, there isn’t much these badass birds won’t try to kill. And when you decide to fight to the death with a creature five times your size, it isn’t going to be pretty and it probably won’t be quick.