We have seen several reports this week alone on small dogs being attacked by various birds of prey. Could a bird of prey carry off your dog? Hawks and owls are the most common predatory birds reported. Other birds of prey known to carry off small animals include eagles, osprey, falcons, and kites. Vultures are occasionally included as birds of prey but are much less likely to be guilty of attacking your dog.
The education manager for the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey in Maitland, Florida, Laura Von Mutius, says that “Birds of prey are really any bird that has a curved beak and talons, and they are also carnivores.
Birds of prey are known to eat many small mammals. Their preferred menu includes rabbits, squirrels, and voles. They sometimes eat insects, reptiles, and various amphibians. and insects. However, osprey and eagles typically prefer fish.
Such birds have incredible eyesight. They can perch on poles, posts, or signs waiting for their prey to come into view. Then, the birds of prey swoop down and capture their dinner.
What Are The Most Common Birds of Prey?
The most common dog-attacking hawk is the Red-Tailed Hawk. It usually weighs less than 3 pounds and cannot swoop off with a dog that weighs more than they do. However, they have been known to attack a slightly larger dog on the ground and to eat it on site.
One very tenacious predatory bird is the great horned owl. Being a larger species, it can take on larger prey. They are known to attack and fly away with small foxes. This predator is also fond of chickens.
Great Horned Owl in Flight
The Facebook Group associated with Happymutt.org had a reader post this comment this week:
Just a little heads up for people with small dogs.
Our Polly weighs 16 pounds and was picked up by an owl a couple of nights ago and dropped.
Took an emergency vet visit, surgery and almost $1,900.00 later to get her fixed up.. she is still miserable but not near as bad as she was, we didn’t know if she would make it.
The vet said the owl must have dropped her but we don’t know from how far up.
She has a broken rib and had 3 gashes where the talons ripped her and bruises on the inside of her left side and her chest from where she was dropped.. she came home with a ton of stitches and drain tubes. They were able to remove the drain tubes this morning.
We are lucky she is still alive.
Not All Attacks Are Due to Hunger, But Most Are
Sometimes, the birds of prey are not interested in eating your dog but still attack them. These birds are very territorial. The attack may be their way of protecting their turf.
We all think of the Eagle as a powerful bird, and he certainly deserves that reputation. However, the wings of an eagle would have to support its own weight of 8- to 15-pound in addition to whatever prey it is carrying. The most accurate estimate of the lifting power of an eagle has been determined to be 4 or 5 pounds. However, dogs of seven or eight pounds have been reported as being carried away by a large, Golden Eagle.
Eagle specialists tell us that the younger, more immature eagles are more likely than the older, more mature eagles to attack your dog. The eagles that are still learning how to fly, hunt, and what to eat, sometimes attack a dog in error.
Intentional or not, eagles do attack and fly off with a small dog occasionally. There was an AP report some time back in which a couple visiting Valdez was interviewed. They were filling the gas tank of their RV when an eagle swooped in and flew away with their Chihuahua as they stood helplessly watching.
A large bird of prey may easily carry off a 2-pound Maltese puppy, but it is not likely that it could fly away with an 8 week old Lab puppy. However, that does not mean that the puppy of that size does not need protection from a bird of prey. Either a hawk or owl might decide to attack and feast upon a dog that size.
Another HappyMutt.org Group reader wrote this comment also just this week.
“WARNING from a lucky owner–Just a warning for owners of small pets. This is my Shih Tzu, Coco, who went outside yesterday afternoon as he normally does and was attacked by an eagle. Luckily he was too heavy for the eagle to carry off but you can actually see the five talon puncture wounds. Thank goodness my baby is going to be okay but I’m now terrified to let either of our small dogs outside. The vet says he will be o.k. and is on antibiotics. Please say a prayer for Coco.”
Ways to Protect Your Dog From Birds of Prey
Dog owners have tried various ways to discourage birds of prey from their property. Reflective tape, pie pans dangling from trees, owl decoys, and big-boom-making machines have been used to scare them away for years.
The executive director of Motley Zoo Animal Rescue in Redmond, Washington, has had problems with birds of prey attacking her dogs. Large and aggressive hawks have zoomed in on her 7 pound Chihuahua and her Fox Terrier weighing 3 pounds. Her problem with the birds of prey was solved by constructing an enclosure that was built under her deck. This safe place allowed her tiny dogs to enjoy being outside without being in danger of attack from a bird of prey.
Others have reported good success with owl decoys and reflective streamers, usually silver in color. However, individual birds of prey have been known to “stalk” a particular dog. They appear to watch the dog closely as though trying to become familiar with its habits.
Birds of prey, like eagles, owls, hawks, falcons have very keen eyesight, They can strike their prey swiftly. Though they tend to hunt small birds and rodents, your very small dogs can be at risk as well. Anyone with a small dog should be very cautious when allowing it to be outside, preferably not alone.
It is important that you do all you can to ensure that your yard is as safe as you can make it for your dog. Make wise decisions when you’re outside with your dog. And, finally, know what steps to take if a bird of prey ever attacks your dog.
What does it look like when a bird of prey attacks a dog?
This attack appears to be a defensive or territorial assault instead of a predatory response. This is determined by the size of the dog. It appears much too large big for the owl to successfully subdue.
(Don’t be concerned about the dog, it is not harmed)
Making Your Yard Safer For Your Dog From Birds of Prey
- Do not have bird feeders on your property. They attract small birds and mice. These are natural prey for the larger birds. Inform your neighbors of the threat to your dog that birds of prey pose. Ask them if they will consider not having feeders, or if they will, at least, take them down during nesting season for birds.
Hawks and other birds of prey may attack your dog if they feel threatened or consider it a competitor. They are more likely to attack if they are protecting their nest or recently hatched offspring. Any potential threat to their nest within 150 is likely to at least be “buzzed” if not fully attacked.
Your dog needs supervision whenever it goes outside. If there is any chance for your dog to find a way to escape its so-called “safe enclosure” and be where a bird of prey might see him, he is at risk. Try to keep an eye on him at all times, especially during the nesting season.
A few tips on ways to protect your dog from a bird of prey in your own yard.
- Prune tree branches to get rid of potential perches for birds of prey. This is especially vital in the areas of your yard where you allow your dog to spend time running free. It is critical to do this over any small, confined area like a playpen.
- Speaking of playpens, they should be covered. Either build a roof over the area or cover it with a tarp or tent with open sides. If the bird of prey cannot see the dog, he will not swoop down and attack him. It is much safer for small dogs to be confined to a small, covered area of your yard than in a large, open area where a bird of prey can attack them.
- Set up a fake owl or scarecrow to deter birds of prey. Owls and hawks are less likely to hang around if they think there is another bird of prey or a human nearby. It is not difficult to make a scarecrow or to purchase a realistic and reasonably priced fake owl. Either one should be moved around every few days. Otherwise, the birds of prey might figure out that they are not real.
- Scare Tape made of reflective taper, either self-made or purchased often scares away birds of prey. The racket they make when the wind blows and the light reflection of the long strips of tape on fences, trees or awnings seem to be effective deterrents.
- Bird Spikes and Hawk Nets are two more aggressive ways to protect your dog in their own yard.
Other Actions You Can Take to Keep Your Dog Safe From A Bird of Prey
- Use a non-retractable leash for walking your dog. Retractable leashes permit your dog to run too far away from you and give a bird of prey a greater opportunity to swoop down on him. They are less likely to do so when you and your dog are close together. The use of a standard leash that is no more than 6 feet long. is much safer. It is safer if you never let your dog off his leash while anywhere other than in your yard. This is true even if you have never noticed a bird of prey in that area.
- Keep your dog away from any nests., whether in a tree, bush, or birdhouse. Look out for any place that a bird of prey may have nested. Their nests may be found either inside a tree cavity or up in its branches. If a bird of prey has nested in your yard or even nearby, keep him on his leash. This is true even in your own yard. You must wait until all the eggs have hatched and the baby birds are no longer in the nest before you allow your dog to run free outside in that area.
In the U.S., birds of prey are federally protected, so do not attempt to disturb or remove an active nest. There are serious penalties for any injury to a bird of prey.
A More Individualized Way to Protect Your Dog From a Bird of Prey
Regardless of the size of your dog, it is best to keep the dog protected from any potential attacks from a bird of prey. Even the not-so-small dogs can become a victim of a bird of prey if they are perceived as a threat to the bird. However, smaller dogs need a more aggressive approach to their protection.
In addition to the area protection methods discussed above, you might want to consider a more personal protection approach. While good for any time your dog is outside, this approach is especially good for when they are off-leash.
Worried Dog Owners Came Up With This Idea
A few worried dog owners whose dogs experienced either an actual attack or a near-miss have invented a new variety of defense systems. The basic premise of the system is a protective coat designed to repel birds of prey attacks and to minimize injuries should fan attack does occur.
There are several brands of “raptor shields”, designed to be worn like a coat that makes it impossible for a dog of prey to carry your dog away. They are made of a material that prevents a bird’s talons from successfully digging into a dog’s skin. It is wrapped over the back of the dog and clips underneath the stomach.
Some of these shields are made of canvas and some of Kevlar. Some even have spikes and are designed more like armor than other brands. A few of them use reflective material that will temporarily cause the bird of prey to be unable to see the dog. Some are sleek and attractive in design, focusing more on the use of reflective materials. Others, are not particularly attractive and focus on using the armored-dog approach. I do not think that this dog looks particularly happy, do you? He does look safe, though.
Some veterinarians have endorsed a few of these products.
Borrowed from an ad
What To Do When A Bird of Prey Is Near Your Dog
The moment you are aware of a bird of prey being nearby, pick up your dog immediately and hold him as close to your body as possible. Carry the dog inside and do not allow it back outside until you have frightened the bird away. Wait for several minutes to be sure it does not come right back. Survey the area for any potential bird nests.
Try to scare the bird of prey with loud noises and by waving your arms wildly. Remember that these birds are federally protected. Do not attempt any measures that might injure one of them. Once you have removed your dog to a safe place, intimidate the bird with noise and movement.
If you are aware of an owl in your yard in the evening, use a powerful flashlight with a strong beam to dissuade the owl. Try to focus the beam of light into the eyes of the owl. This usually is enough incentive for the owl to vacate the property.
If Your Dog Has Contact With a Bird of Prey
CONTACT YOUR VETERINARIAN ASAP
This does not happen every day but once is enough to cause serious damage to your dog. So, if a bird of prey attempts to attack your dog, check them out immediately and thoroughly for any sign of injury.
It is best to have your dog checked out by a vet. You are likely to notice any punctures on the dog’s skin made by a bird’s talons. You may also notice any broken bones. However, internal injuries and other less serious soft tissue to minor bone injuries may be missed.
If there is any questionable behavior in your dog after an altercation with a bird of prey, call your vet immediately.
A Quick Video Summary of Much of This Info
This clip not only introduces you to the main birds of prey guilty of attacking dogs, but it also shows how to protect your dogs as well.
For our friends across the pond, here is an article for you.