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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Predator Birds And Small Dogs

Here's a question that in over eight years of blogging I haven't been asked!
We saw a bald eagle fly over our house the other day.  We've also seen hawks and owls.  My concern is our 13 lb dog's safety.  I was wondering if she wore a piece of clothing outside if that would somehow make her look less like an animal they would want to pick up.  I was just looking online and found this page that mentions different products that are on the market.  Do you know if any of these products are helpful?  At the end of the article it said eagles can only pick up 4-5 lbs but other places I read much larger.  Would love to know your thoughts.
When you think of a large raptor such as a hawk or eagle, you wouldn't think of them as a potential concern for your pets.  After all, that's just Hollywood, right?  You might think of it happening in a movie such as The Proposal (Ryan Reynolds & Sandra Bullock) but not in real life.  Isn't it a myth?
I'm sorry to say that it's not.  While rare, birds of prey will occasionally try and take off with a small dog.  I've had at least one client who lost a small dog to a hawk.  So this is one that is definitely not a myth.
Bald eagles prefer fish over small mammals, but other kinds of eagles may have more variety in their diet so it depends on what is native to your area.  Hawks and owls do prefer small mammals, but will eat just about anything they can get their claws on.  Since some of the larger raptors feed on rabbits, which can weigh 4-6 pounds or more, a dog about that size certainly isn't safe.  I don't have information on exactly how much weight a large predatory bird can carry, so I'm not going to try and hazard a guess.  Keep in mind that they don't always carry their prey away, and sometimes will kill and eat it on the same place.
What can a pet owner do?  The link above is pretty interesting, and I think those products have some potential.  It's the first time I've ever heard of them so I can't say whether or not they are effective, and I've never known anyone to try them.  But if I had a small dog in this situation it sounds like it probably wouldn't hurt to give it a try.  I would be slightly skeptical that a reflective surface would always work, as I would imagine it being less effective on a very cloudy day.  But the dog probably wouldn't look like prey with this on, so that's a good thing.  If we're merely going by whether or not it looks like prey to a raptor, you might achieve a similar effect with a colorful shirt or jacket designed for dogs.
I do recommend being aware of the types of high level predators you might have in your area, and for birds I would be cautious with any dog or cat under 15 pounds.  Ones under 10 pounds are more at risk.  If you know you have hawks, eagles, and owls in the area I wouldn't let your dog go outside unsupervised, and if you are in a very rural area you may consider only ever taking your dog out on a leash.  A raptor isn't likely to try and kill or capture a dog when a human is a few feet away, and if for some reason it did happen you'd  have your dog on the leash, preventing the bird from flying away with him or her.
Those of you who have small dogs living in the same area as raptors, I wouldn't panic.  These predators tend to prefer hunting without humans nearby, so most dogs will be safe.  The risk exists, but even then the incidents of this happening are very rare.  I still recommend taking some precautions because you don't want to lose your dog to a situation like this.