As a veterinarian, I used to think a dog fight was one of the worst things that could happen to a pet while out walking. But wildlife attacks on pets are a real and present danger. Remember the scene from the Sandra Bullock movie, The Proposal, in which Kevin, the American Eskimo puppy, is carried off by an eagle? Recently Boss, my 16-pound mixed breed dog, became a target of a flying predator not in remote Alaska, but smack dab in the heart of Las Vegas suburbia.
During a walk at our community park before sunrise, I heard a loud beating of wings as a Great Horned Owl swooped down over Boss, my 16-pound terrier mix. My other dog Nikki, a Bouvier des Flanders, ran up to Boss and the owl flew off, retreated to a light pole, and sat studying Boss’ movements. Fearing the owl appeared ready for a second try, I snatched Boss in my arms and hightailed it out of there.
Boss was lucky to have the deterrent of an eighty-pound doggie sister nearby. But not all pets get off so lucky when wildlife predators are concerned. Outdoor cats and dogs may disappear during the night falling victim to a suspected coyote attack. Small pets under 20 pounds can be whisked off by birds of prey. Stories of wildlife attacks such as these occur all the time and the internet reads of horrific stories by owners who lose their small pets to wildlife.
What animals to watch for?
Coyotes are found not only in rural areas but also thrive in metropolitan areas. Mountain lions and bobcats are other predators that are a concern for homeowners in more remote areas or along the outskirts of towns. Birds of prey such as owls, hawks, and eagles are very capable hunters, are protective of nesting sites, and can easily carry off small animals two to three times their body weight.
What can you do?
Be especially watchful near parks, golf courses, or near natural paths that wildlife use as travel corridors, such as flood channels or washes. Remember that an abundance of prey animals like wild bunnies in your community means prime hunting grounds for urban predators.
Don’t leave your pets out at night unattended and preferably escort them using a leash. Wildlife rarely will approach a small pet if it is near a human or other larger animals.
Install motion-activated lights on the property.
Ensure all dog runs have a roof or fencing above to prevent predators from jumping over enclosure walls.
Building high fences and walls may seem like a solution, but predators can easily jump over them. Consider coyote fencing- a style of fencing that may help deter a predator from entering your backyard. Check out the Coyote Roller – an ingenious and humane method to prevent coyotes and other dogs from being able to get over the top of the fence with rolling metal bars installed along a fence line. http://www.a1steelfence.com/coyote-rollers.html
Avoid attracting prey animals
Take steps to make your yard less attractive to nuisance animals like possums and raccoons as well as potential prey animals. Remove wildlife feeding stations like bird feeders. Secure garbage cans. Keep brush trimmed and landscape maintained to avoid hiding sites for animals. Avoid fruit-producing trees that serve as food sources. Feed pets indoors to avoid leaving a food source outside for mice, rats, or other critters.
Any other tools to protect pets?
Check out the Raptor Shield, a lightweight protective cape made of polycarbonate plastic- the same compound used in bulletproof shields. This dog vest product was developed to stop a bird of prey’s sharp talons from penetrating into small pets. http://raptorshield.com/
What to do if your pet is targeted by wildlife?
Make noise, wave arms, and throw rocks to drive away animals. Carry a whistle, air horn, or pepper spray for defense. Remember that some species of raptors are protected species and harassing or injuring them can result in fines.
Preventative efforts are far more useful than any steps you can take to spook away a predator after an attack occurs. Speak to your neighbors and share information if you spot coyotes or birds of prey in your neighborhood.
Don’t get me wrong- I wish no ill will on nature’s most efficient predators. I still find those soaring raptors breathtaking and I am awed by the coyote’s adaptability, but from now on I’ll prefer to watch nature’s animal wonders with my little terrier guy safely seated on my lap.