19 December 2012
A video posted to YouTube yesterday, depicting an aerial attempt by an eagle to snatch a human baby in a park, has gone viral, receiving well over 1 million views in just one day. The video is a hoax.
It was created and uploaded by three students in a 3D Animation and Design class in Montreal, Canada. To someone not familiar with animal behavior, it could appear quite convincing.
There are, even for non-naturalists, a few signs that something isn't right. The bird is described as a "monster eagle", and the caption hyperbole alludes to "the impending giant fucking eagle menace".
One observer listed several reasons why the film clip was clearly fake, and a source at Center NAD, the school hosting the class, published a disclaimer acknowledging the hoax, identifying the students, and attempting to reassure the public.
Here is the video (thanks to friend Bill for the link). Anyone remotely familiar with the natural world will see immediately that (a) the bird is only average in size for its species, and (b) the toddler in question is much bulkier than an eagle's normal prey. Further, the wing and tail markings don't match either of North America's native large raptors, the golden eagle or the bald eagle.
For non-naturalist parents or casual viewers, the CGI eagle attack may look real, with echoes of attacks on humans by sharks, bears, mountain lions, and Australian dingoes. And here is the truly unfortunate aspect of the superficially convincing footage ~ there are viewers who won't bother to check for accuracy, and a portion of those viewers own firearms, and a portion of those gun owners will take it upon themselves to shoot any eagle they see.
So while the 1-minute video may have felt like both a lark and a student accomplishment to its creators, uploading it to YouTube was irresponsible. If a single eagle is killed as a result, therein lies the real tragedy.