Bald Eagles Filmed Fighting in Minnesota Street: 'It's Just Crazy'

Police officers are no strangers to breaking up fights on public streets. But law enforcement officials in Minnesota had to deal with a more unusual incident on Wednesday afternoon—two dueling bald eagles.

Residents in Plymouth spotted two eagles battling on the ground in the middle of an intersection in the city and called the police. One officer, Mitch Martinson, eventually responded to the scene in an attempt to break up the raptors as a small crowd gathered.

The Plymouth Police Department wrote in a Facebook post: "For Plymouth police officers, there's no telling what call could come in next. Yesterday, police responded to a report of two bald eagles stuck together on a Plymouth roadway.

"With a little assistance, the eagles were able to untangle themselves and flew away."

Martinson was doing traffic enforcement outside a high school when he received the call about the dueling eagles.

"We do have de-escalation tactics, but I've never applied them to eagles or other animals," the officer told local CBS affiliate WCCO.

When Martinson arrived at the scene, he was unsure how to tackle the situation but managed to capture bodycam footage of the birds.

"I was trying to go through my head what to do next. And who to call," Martinson said.

He decided to contact the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota, who told him the raptors were likely fighting over territory.

"I've never been up that close to eagles and their talons are much bigger than I thought. So, they could injure someone pretty severely if you get too close," Martinson told CCX Media.

"It's definitely a call that I've never had before. We don't train on it. So, yeah, I was definitely thinking outside of the box. I first wanted to make sure there weren't any injuries with their wings or beaks."

The officer said he had seen on an Animal Planet program that if you cover a bird's eyes it can help to calm them down. He attempted this tactic with the help of a passer-by, but the birds eventually flew away.

The officer said one of the perks of his job was that he had the chance to respond to different incidents every day.

"It's definitely one of the most memorable calls I've been on, and probably once-in-a-career, once-in-a-lifetime incident to be on scene for and see firsthand," Martinson told CCX.

In this case, the bald eagles did not appear to be injured when they flew away. But according to the Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota, these fights can result in serious injuries and even death.

"In this case of dueling bald eagles, they are most often defending territories or a nest," Victoria Hall from the Raptor Center told Newsweek. "This mainly happens at two times of year: in early spring, as pairs are reestablishing territories in preparation for breeding; and in the fall, when some pairs reclaim a nest—if they stay on territory during the winter—and start adding sticks to reinforce its structure."

She added: "These battles can be brutal and sometimes even fatal. If they end up falling from the sky, tangled together, they could have internal trauma from the fall and they can get a lot of puncture wounds from their sharp talons on their feet and legs as they fight."

Hall said the center treated around six eagles every year that have been injured in fights over territory.

"We always recommend that if members of the public find birds in these situations that they give us a call and we can help determine if the birds need to be evaluated and treated for any possible injuries," she said.

"Eagles fighting over territory is not uncommon out in nature, although we tend not to see the results of these fights in the middle of cities."

One Plymouth resident who saw the incident, Todd Burroughs, told WCCO: "It's just crazy. It's hard to believe it happened right here in the street."

Newsweek has contacted the Plymouth Police Department and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for comment.

Update 11/10/21, 10:15 a.m. ET: This article was updated to add comments from the Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota and a new video.

Two fighting bald eagles
The two bald eagles that were found battling in Plymouth, Minnesota, on Wednesday. Plymouth Police Department