The deer was the dinner.
And the eagle was the diner.
Until the tables got turned.
Then the eagle turned loser and the deer just got gone.
That’s a brief summary on a strange traffic call handled on Sunday, Jan. 25 by the Payson office of the Department of Public Safety.
The call started off normal enough.
A motorist called at 10 a.m. Sunday to report a deer, still alive, laying by the side of the highway at about mile marker 277 on Highway 87, near the Cinch Hook sledding area, according to DPS sergeant, John Whetten.
DPS sent a highway patrol officer to investigate and make sure it didn’t pose a hazard to the still rushing traffic.
But when the officer arrived at the scene, she could find no trace of the supposedly dying deer.
She searched diligently — and found something else: The bashed up body of a thoroughly dead golden eagle with a five-foot wingspan.
What the heck?
“No trace of the deer. Just the eagle,” said Whetten.
DPS reported the deceased eagle to the Arizona Department of Game and Fish, who asked DPS to rush the body down to the wildlife freezer at the Game and Fish headquarters in Phoenix — since all eagles are strictly protected and it’s illegal to possess so much as a feather without a permit.
Now, here’s one little secret about the majestic national bird.
Eagles are first-rate scavengers — often chasing off lowly buzzards when they want to claim a carcass.
Of course, bald eagles have trashier taste than golden eagles, who mostly catch rabbits on the run — even big, rangy, high-hopping jack rabbits.
Bald eagles spend more time looking for carcasses — perhaps because they live on fish — which end up floating belly up with some frequency.
In any case, it looks like maybe the golden eagle landed to make a meal of the supposedly dying deer.
Who knows what happened next.
Did the eagle motivate the deer to jump up and run off into the forest — perhaps unnerving the eagle right into the roadway?
We’ll never know.
Save in the end — the deer was gone and the eagle was a goner.