A Relationship With an Eagle is an Equal One
Golden Eagle talons are made of keratin (just like your fingernails) and are about the size of grizzly bear claws (hopefully not like your fingernails). This does not bother Lauren McGough (below). Lauren is a woman who taught herself to prepare rabbit and quail precisely the way an eagle likes it, even if it means bloodying her hands. She spent a year in the Altai Mountains of Mongolia learning to respectfully train and hunt (with) an eagle. As a conservationist and passionate professional Lauren uses her knowledge to teach abused eagles to act more themselves, and humans to act less abusive.
Lauren (with Miles) is one of the rarest of falconers in the US - they do not yet number a dozen - who fly a Golden Eagle.
Miles is an unusual Golden Eagle in that he was stolen from his nest as a baby and kept as a pet. After being confiscated, he found his way to Lauren who taught him that he could fly and hunt and catch his own meals. She uses a lure to help with that training. Our GoPro survived the attack, as do most hares that Miles tries to catch. While eagles are specially evolved to catch hares, conversely hares are equally evolved to evade eagles.
Miles is pretty chill around people, which is why he can't be released. If he was to be set free, he would unknowingly endanger his life by seeking out humans for food and company.
Lauren's dedication to her bird is complete. Miles needs diligent training, care and feeding, and the more he gets out and learns to hunt, the happier he is. He is also pretty darn heavy, which you would not know from watching Lauren carry him around on her arm in a field, walking a long grid to flush out prey. I held him for about 10 minutes and my arm was killing me.
Lauren calls Miles “The Prairie Dragon”, especially fitting when he is protecting some morsel of food (as he is doing in the photo). You can learn more about Lauren and why she loves falconry at the link below.