Sunday, November 15, 2009

Hawks, Owls, Dogs and Cats

W took our three-pound Pomchi puppy, Bella to Dr. Cynthia Lipps office the other day for its parvovirus shot and observed an adult cat sleeping in the office. I commented that it probably slept all day after prowling all night and the Vet assistant informed me the cat was basically permanently helpless due to a near fatal hawk attack. All it did was eat and sleep and was actually content.


Now I’m not totally ignorant about predacious hawks and small animals and based on the large number of cats in my neighborhood, I never really worried too much about the flying predators. All that has changed in the last year. We own an eight-pound Shih Tzu and a three-pound Pomeranian/Chihuahua mix, called a Pomchi, plus we regularly are watching my daughter and son-in-law’s two dogs - a Yorkie (seven-pounds) and a rat terrier (twelve-pounds).


Behind our house is seventy acres of woods and swamp. Coyotes, feral hogs and even bobcats roam these woods, which tells me there is plenty of food for these predators. I’ve watched large raptors hover over the woods many times including Caracara (Mexican Eagle) and until recently; they were nothing more than a curiosity.

Not too long ago, to my surprise I watched a great horned owl land on the power line directly in my backyard. The giant bird had close to five feet of wingspan and it sat in the near darkness and turned its head slowly this way and that and that is when I realized how terrifying this bird of prey could be to small animals. I researched this owl species and found out they have a talon grip of over 500 pounds per square inch, as opposed to the average man’s 60 ppsi. A bird like this could snatch a full-grown raccoon or armadillo with no problem. What chance would a cat or small dog have?

My sister Connie lives out close to Dayton and she has lost a number of cats to hawks and has warned me repeatedly to watch my doggies. The whole situation has made me view these birds as a menace.

I decided to Google “hawks attacking dogs” and was surprised to see how many pet owners have lost their animals to hawks, including attacks on twenty and thirty pound dogs. Numerous people have lost their dogs while walking them on leashes and a number of folks report hawks swooping down on them while standing on their property.

My wife and I now grab our dogs any time we see a hawk hovering nearby, but our nightly visits to the backyard so our dogs can “potty” leave us almost helpless to stop an attack by an airborne predator. About fifteen years ago, I had a Pomeranian-Shih Tzu mix that ran off into the woods and we never saw her again. To this day I believe a coyote got her, or maybe a bobcat.

People who are not pet lovers won’t see this column as a big deal, but those of us who care for animals need to take note and as habitat disappears, watch for aerial predators when we have our pets in the yard. One lady suggested stepping on their wings when they pounce on your pet, as she warns they will not surrender your pet easily. I hope I never experience any of this, as my pets are like family and it would be too hard to bear.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Bert, there was a lady in the front of the neighborhood who had her little POM picked up by some large Bird, not an owl..and I had an OWL pick up a full grown chicken before...and ended up dropping it on top of the house. Our little dogs wouldnt stand a chance if the right bird was there...and you live right in their flight path....

Anonymous said...

Bert, it's not just hawks. A few years ago my brother took my elderly basset out around 3am in the front yard (the back had been sprayed that day) and she was on a leash. To say she was mild tempered would be an understatement. My 6 foot 6 brother and she were immediately attacked out of nowhere by a neighborhood pit bull. Our dog just stood there. My brother wrestled her while we ran out to help at his yells. She was injured and Dr. Lipps said were were lucky anyone got out alive. The police took the dog away (but it was friendly to them) and the animal control implied it was our fault. The next day the dog was back at home and attacked and killed a neighbor's dog the next day (and the neighbors still have it).

Truth is that small dogs can be attacked at night by anything. Cyotes, raccoons, you name it. The best thing to do is to keep them on a leash at night and stay close. Small dogs/cats are just food for larger ones.

For us, we keep our dog close by when there are dogs/large birds out. Baytown is still far enough out to have some very large coons that can hurt a dog badly.

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