Protect your pet from Birds of Prey

Often times in the morning we open up all the doors off the kitchen and let the fresh air in. This Saturday morning was no different. It was about 11am as we finished up breakfast in the kitchen nook. It was a beautiful sunny morning here in California, 70 degrees, clear skies. My dog Sadie is a small Shi-poo about 12 pounds. She loves the back yard, and ventured outside to make her rounds. She sat on the back patio scanning the yard, as she so frequently does before feeling comfortable enough to lie down. As I glanced up from my coffee I saw a large bird with an enormous wing span swoop down to grab my dog!  Sadie had not yet laid down, and with quick instinct and incredible reflexes she ducked out of the way. The bird turned around in flight and flew off!

My jaw (probably) hit the table. I had to blink and shake my head a few times to verify that what I just saw was real! I ran outside and looked up at a hawk flying around in the sky. That hawk came within inches of grabbing my dog!

I shared this event with my son later that day. My son had spent the night before at our neighbors house, and as they were on their way to breakfast that morning around 11am my neighbor saw the same hawk and oddly enough said, “Wow, that’s a pretty good sized hawk, people should watch their pets!”

Many birds of prey regularly hunt small animals, and they won’t distinguish between a wild creature and a beloved pet. Many pet owners fear for their pets when raptors are in the area, but there are easy steps every pet owner can take to protect their animal from becoming prey.

Pets at Risk from Raptors

The pets most at risk from hunting birds of prey are small animals that spend time outdoors unsupervised. While bird attacks on pets are not common, birds have been recorded as attacking:

  • Small dogs and puppies, especially toy breeds
  • Small cats and kittens
  • Rabbits
  • Guinea pigs
  • Pet ducks or chickens

Any small pet, however, can be at risk from a bird attack. Large raptors will routinely attack animals that weigh up to 20 pounds as part of a hunt, and many birds of prey will attack even larger animals if the bird feels its nest or young is threatened.

Protecting Your Pets From Birds of Prey

There are several easy steps pet owners can take to protect their pets from bird attacks.

  • Supervise Pets: Stay outside with your pet at all times. A hunting raptor is less likely to attack a small animal when a much larger one (its owner) is nearby.
  • Keep Pets Contained: Provide a caged run or other enclosure with a roof for pets that are left outside unsupervised. This gives the pet freedom to be outdoors but protects it from aerial attacks. Runs without roofs are not effective at deterring bird attacks.
  • Provide Cover: If a sheltered run is not available but a pet must be left outdoors, leash the pet in an area where trees and shrubs provide natural cover to conceal the pet from the air. This also provides shade and better comfort for outdoor pets.
  • Exercise Pets Together: If you have more than one pet, exercise them outdoors together. A raptor is much less likely to attack when other animals are present because the bird will be concerned about extra animals defending their companion or stealing the kill.
  • Train Pets: Teach pets not to molest birds of any size. A dog that chases birds, for example, is much less likely to be wary of an approaching raptor.
  • Avoid Ground Feeding Birds: Avoid feeding doves, quail and other birds that eat on the ground or low feeders. These types of birds are most likely to attract larger hawks, and a hunting hawk is just as likely to target a pet as a wild feeding bird.
  • Feed Pets Indoors: A pet that is gulping a meal will not be aware of a hunting predator, and untended pet food will attract other animals such as mice, rats, raccoons and squirrels that will themselves attract hunting raptors. Once a raptor defines an area as a productive hunting ground, it will continue to return to that food source, potentially endangering pets.

The best thing a pet owner can do to safeguard their companions against bird attacks is to be aware of birds in the area. If raptors are known to nest or roost nearby, avoid walking or exercising pets in that area. In extreme cases of highly aggressive birds, pet owners can contact local wildlife management officials for an evaluation of whether or not the bird can be deterred or relocated if necessary.

Courtesy of About.com (http://birding.about.com/od/birdingbasics/a/Protect-Pets-From-Birds-Of-Prey.htm)

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