Oak Bay resident stumbles upon eagle hunting seal, grabs camera just in time

Oak Bay resident Jacques Sirois happened upon an eagle hunting a yearling seal. (Photo courtesy Jacques Sirois)
The eagle dragged its prey through the water. (Photo courtesy Jacques Sirois)
The large bird of prey hauled its heavy prey out of the water revealing a young seal. (Photo courtesy Jacques Sirois)
The eagle quickly started in on its meal. (Photo courtesy Jacques Sirois)
Sirois still managed to capture the long-billed dowitcher he’d set out to photograph. (Photo courtesy Jacques Sirois)

An Oak Bay resident was in for a surprise while out in his kayak when he encountered an eagle hunting a mid-sized seal.

Jacques Sirois, a biologist, was paddling in McNeill Bay on May 8 when he spotted a long-billed dowitcher – a shorebird that forages in the mud and sand. Sirois pulled out his camera in hopes of capturing a photo when he noticed an eagle had also zeroed in on the dowitcher.

READ ALSO: Nanaimo kayakers try their best to save turkey vulture attacked by eagles

The large bird of prey decided to put on a show – it swooped in but missed its mark, Sirois said. The frustrated eagle also missed another shorebird before setting its sights on a much larger target – a seal.

The eagle dove down to the water suddenly, he said. It captured something heavy and dragged it about 100 metres through the water as Sirois watched from his kayak – camera in hand.

“The eagle did a perfect butterfly stroke to shore” before hauling its catch out of the ocean, revealing the seal, he explained. Sirois guessed the seal was about one year old – a yearling – as it was too big to be a pup but clearly not full grown.

“It was a totally unplanned event,” Sirois said, adding how surprised he was to see the eagle move through the water with such a heavy animal in its talons. “I was in the right place at the right time.”

Sirois pointed out that there’s a pair of eagles who live in the area and he’s seen them hunting before but never something so big.

READ ALSO: Central Saanich dog walker warns of eagle attacks on small dogs

“They’re very busy hunting around south Oak Bay” and often perch on the Trial Islands lighthouse, Sirois said.

While he was excited to capture the moment on camera, Sirois isn’t planning on framing the photos – because he simply has too many nature shots from many years of exploring the area.

“We are lucky to have so much nature here in the city,” he said.

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