Preying for Safety

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We all love the littlest furry friends amongst the sea of pets out there. Yet their size, while one of their cutest qualities, also poses the greatest danger to them outside the confines of the house thanks to various wild animals.

Unfortunately, through carelessness, routine or just not being aware of those threats, your pet could be placed in a situation that ultimately endangers them. But being aware of the wildlife that prey around your home and what preventative measures can be taken, may very well save their life one day.

Years ago, I had let our now oldest dog Mia outside to go to the bathroom one last time for the night. Leaving the sliding glass door open to the house, I went about my business. Moments went by when Mia flew into the house crying at the top of her lungs, a trail of blood leading her up to the bedroom where she’d gone to hide. I had discovered puncture wounds on her back where a bird of prey had attempted to carry the dog off.

People, pet owners and otherwise, often forget about birds of prey and their ability to attack their beloved canines. Regardless of your pet’s size, there is always a chance they can become the target of an owl, hawk or otherwise flying stalker. Unfortunately, there is no cut-off for a pet weight that’ll guarantee their safety and it’s recommended that you supervise all outside activity of your pet.

Here are some birding tips from Melissa Mayntz that pet owners should keep in mind:

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 pet

It also never hurts to be aware of any falcons, hawks or owls that may be nesting or otherwise migrating through the area where your pets walk or reside. The birds may not be able to distinguish your pet from their common prey, so it is up to the owners to remain vigilant.

Keeping the above recommendations in mind will be a great first step, and go a long way, to helping your furry little friends stay safe and prevent a visitor swooping on them from the friendly (or unfriendly) skies.

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