Will owls attack small dogs?
Over the past week I have noticed an owl hunting in our neighborhood at night. I have seen the owl in some of the trees in our yard.
I haven't seen the owl well enough to determine what kind it is, but it looked large while flying and it makes the classic who-whoo-who-whoo sounds when sitting in our trees.
Do I have to worry about it hunting my small, 3.6 kg (around 8 lbs) pomeranian/chihuahua when I let her out at night?
If so, what can I do to deter the owl from coming in our yard and do I need to go out with my dog to protect her?
In our neighborhood (in N. Viriginia) we regularly have a falcon sitting in our local trees, and more rarely (twice that I know of this summer) bald eagles. One of my neighbors in a condo with a balcony said her little Pomeranian was "going crazy" at the window and went to look and was being stared at by one of the eagles. Said it "looked hungry". :)
Yes birds of prey can be a risk to small pets (and children!).
When we have our rabbits out in the yard we are always outside with them. As this video shows even a terrier on a leash surrounded by people is at some risk.
Other images of dogs and cats being attacked by birds of prey can be found on the internet. From these images it seems that animals in the 7 pound (3kg) range are at risk from birds of prey. How big does a pet need to be, in order to be relatively safe from attack by birds of prey?
The following images may be disturbing to some, mouse over will display them.
The size of pet that can safely be left outside unsupervised depends on the size of predators in your area, as well the amount of protection that you have to keep predators out of your pets area.
If you leave your small pet outside unsupervised, you presumably have a fence to keep feral/neighborhood dogs out as well as yours in. You need to be aware of all the predators in your area, some like racoons can climb fences and occasionally attack cats and even dogs (rarely).
Some flying birds of prey like Eagles can carry off animals up to half of their body weight. Some source recommend that pets under 15 pounds (7kg) never be left outside unsupervised. I did not find good references for birds of prey eating dogs, I did find reliable references of them catching and eating foxes, it is not difficult to image that dogs would also be at risk.
Some Eagles have been known to take prey up to 4 times their own weight. While they are unable to fly away with prey this size, the will kill and eat it.
IMHO Pets under 15 pounds (7kg) should never be left out alone.
- "Raccoons rampaging Olympia". seattlepi.com. Seattle Post-Intelligencer. August 23, 2006.
- Decline and Recovery of the Island Fox: A Case Study for Population Recovery
- 101 Facts about Eagles
- Bald Eagle Facts
- Eagle Flight and Other Myths; Eagles Don’t Eat Children or Pets
- Coyote attacks on humans
- Eagles filmed hunting reindeer
- Hawks Aloft, Frequently Asked Questions
- Eagle tries to carry off Australian boy
Although owl attacks on pets are uncommon, they do happen. The advice not to leave small pets unattended (especially at night) is prudent. See the International Owl Center for more advice (http://www.internationalowlcenter.org/owls-humans/owlseatingpets).