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David Jacobs Killed a Golden Eagle to Save a Goose, or So He Said

Blog post by Randi Richardson


Photo compliments of Zdeněk Macháček of the Czech Republic at

Golden eagles, not to be confused with bald eagles, are one of the largest, fastest, nimblest raptors in North America.  They hunt on land and in the air.  They are capable of preying on land animals the size of a small deer with a grip strength said to be 100 times greater than that of a human male and feeding on birds like geese and crane.  Their stamina in pursuit of prey can be seen in a second effort to attack a bird or animal that at first escaped capture.  They come back with a vengeance that endures as long as it takes for what it is hunting to be dead.

Although golden eagles are now quite rare in Indiana, that wasn’t always the case.  On November 13, 1872, the Bloomington Progress reported that David Jacobs shot a golden eagle that was endeavoring to kill some geese in Salt Creek near where he lived.  “There were three geese in the creek, and the eagle was flying back and forth over them,” said Jacobs “striking them with enormous talons.”

Jacobs’ noted that his bullet did not kill the eagle but struck the bird’s thigh.  After struggling several hundred yards over the ground and finding it could fly no further, it fell on its back.  Jacobs then set his dogs upon it and the eagle began to fight for its life with its talons.  The talons of its right foot struck into the face of one of the dogs and held him until it was dead when Jacobs released the dog.

Pleased with his defeat of the eagle, Jacobs brought it to Bloomington where it was exhibited on the streets.  A formidable bird in appearance, the wing span from tip to tip measured over seven feet and the claws spread near seven inches.  Archie McGinnis purchased the bird with plans to have it preserved by a taxidermist.

One might wonder if Jacobs’ action against the eagle was truly motivated by his desire to save the geese.  You decide.  Take into consideration that within the past few years he had fathered a bastard child with his wife’s sister and had been tried for the murder of his brother-in-law, Robert Clark.  Although he was initially found not guilty, Robert’s wife later admitted that she witnessed the murder but was threatened by Jacobs with her life if she told what she had seen.

Based upon the widow’s recent testimony, the community came to believe that Jacobs did, in fact, kill Clark.  Because Clark could not be tried a second time for the same crime, some men took it upon themselves to mete out their own brand of justice.  They waylaid him along a deserted road in the darkness of night and put a bullet through him.  No one was ever tried for the offense.