A video posted to Twitter last night of a surprising scene on the lower St. Croix has already been seen by hundreds of thousands of people across the country and around the world.
Dan and Andie Goff of Woodbury, Minn. were just leaving Afton Marina in their boat Wednesday evening when they saw what looked like an injured bald eagle in the water. But the pair quickly realized the bird was not hurt, but just trying to hold on to a large fish with its feet.
With Dan’s phone recording video, and speaking in whispers, they watched the eagle floating in the water and then used its wings to swim to shore. That’s when they saw what it was holding: a good-sized muskellunge, a fierce predator in its own right.
Twelve hours after posting video on Twitter, it had been watched almost 500,000 times and retweeted 5,200 times. Even Hollywood actors were responding.
Bald eagles have powerful talons that essentially “lock closed” after grabbing something. That explains why this bird was able to hold onto the struggling, powerful muskie in the water, and why it actually could not let go.
The “locking talons” instinct was part of another St. Croix River eagle story earlier this summer. Then, boaters came to the rescue of two birds who locked talons while fighting in mid-air, and fell into the river, still connected.
As you can see in the video, once the bird dragged the fish onto shore, it first rested and surveyed the surrounding scene. The muskie tried flopping back into the river, but the eagle quickly stopped that.
A half-hour later, the Goffs boated past again and saw that the eagle had eaten about half the fish.
Bald eagles nearly went extinct in the 1960s and 1970s, but were saved and the population restored thanks to the Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the birds are now “flourishing” across the Midwest. This week, the Trump administration announced it is seeking to significantly reduce protections for other threatened plants and animals.
Celebrity fans of the St. Croix River video included Andy Richter, who became famous as Conan O’Brien’s sidekick, and Rhea Seehorn, an actor best known for her work on the show ‘Better Call Saul.’
This is amazing.— Rhea Seehorn (@rheaseehorn) August 15, 2019
More semi-famous folks also shared it with their comments: