For birds of prey, spring is a time of bounty. The owls, hawks and eagle’s prey are at a disadvantage because leaves have not yet leafed and cover for is scarce. Unfortunately, it is also the time of year for guardians of small animal companions to keep an eye skyward.
There has been an increase in Hawks and owls taking small dogs, cats, rabbits and guinea pigs due to a number of factors such as scarcity of natural prey, but also some raptors consider companion animals an easy target and as the raptors assimilate to the growing number of humans, they become less wary. It can also not be discounted that small companion animals may, from the bird’s perspective, be seen as a threat to the nesting site and chicks. Great Horned Owl and Red-Tailed Hawk pose the biggest threat, though they are not the only ones.
Companions less than 20 lbs. are most at risk and there are several things one can do to protect them.
Do not let your companion unsupervised outside. This will stop some hunting attacks but not all. A Hawk, for example, has excellent eyesight, but not a very wide field of vision so once she has ‘painted’ a target she does not necessarily see an object 10 feet from the target.
Use the buddy system if you have more than one companion. Send the out in mass. Raptors of all kinds are less likely to be interested in a group of barking dogs.
Provide cover. Natural elements, such as bushes and shrubs, or manmade like a run with a covered roof, are deterrents for hunting raptors as they gage angles and success vs. injury.
Be aware of raptors in your area. Nesting sites are prime areas of concern for guardians, especially large birds of prey.
Yes, the little ones are in danger but try to remember raptors are not specifically after your beloved. They are only looking for a meal and, unfortunately, 10-15 lbs. that obliviously runs about in plain site is an attractive meal. In general, only 1 out of 10 hunts are successful for raptors. Owls and Hawks fall prey to guns, loss of habitat and poisoned by proxy by eating other animals that have been poisoned themselves.
While we all want to keep our companions safe, that doesn’t mean the birds are the enemies. They are just trying to make a living and keep their beloveds safe; so be vigilant when the little ones are outside and if there is an aggressive raptor in your area, call your local wildlife rehab center or DNR to find a solution.