What Precautions Can Prevent Predators from Taking Your Pet?

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Shanna Moakler, a reality TV star from California, is warning fellow small dog owners about the risks of losing pets to wildlife after one of her dogs was seriously injured and another disappeared after a hawk flew off with it.She had installed coyote-proof fences, knowing that predators were problematic in her area, but it wasn't enough to protect them from an aerial attack.

Every time I see a lost cat or dog poster in my Colorado neighborhood, I know that there is a good chance they became prey to our local wildlife. There was an old tree on a lonely ridge in our area, overlooking a neighborhood, that became uprooted. When workers went to clean it up, there was an enormous owl nest full of dog and cat collars in it. Some just attribute this to being part of "the circle of life" but for pet lovers, pets are family! So what can be done to protect these precious pets?

Get to Know the Local Wildlife

Lions, and tigers, and bears... Oh my! Well, you may not have tigers to contend with, but mountain lions could be an issue. Check with your local wildlife department for tips on animals that are in your area. Even the cute fuzzy ones could pose a problem to your pet, so make sure your pets' vaccinations are up to date. Incidents of rabies outbreaks have been noted in certain parts of the country. To make things more complex, urbanization has created a unique situation of habitat encroachment, and wildlife view domesticated pets as an all-you-can-eat buffet. Foxes and coyotes have become increasingly bold with wildlife officials issuing warnings against feeding wild animals, which brings us to our tips:

  • Feed your pet indoors. Don't leave food outside to attract rodents and raccoons, which also attract other predators. Pets that are eating outdoors will be distracted and less aware of threats.
  • If you spot hawks or eagles in the area, don't leave your dog unsupervised. Keep kitty indoors.
  • If you must leave your dog outdoors, invest in a dog run with a cover. This is effective against raptors and mountain lions.
  • Coyotes are clever hunters. They will send out a single coyote to bait a dog into chasing it and the pack will ambush a dog. Keep your dog leashed or fenced with tall privacy fences.
  • Owls hunt at dusk and in the dark. The great horned owls can lift animals several times their weight, up to 20 pounds. Keep an eye out for these aerial predators swooping under street lamps as they sometimes eat moths attracted there. If they live in your neighborhood, do not let your dog out at night without a leash. Make nighttime potty breaks very brief.
  • Dog Clothing.  Yes folks, dog clothing can save your pet's life. I encountered a Yorkie on a walk several years back (before BaxterBoo even existed) and commented on her attire. Her owner said her vet advised her to dress her dog in flamboyant, non-natural attire as it would make the dog appear less like a natural prey menu item to hawks and eagles. If that doesn't convince you, I read a story on a chihuahua web site with photographs of a brave little chi with a puncture wound that would have been much worse had the dog not been wearing a heavy coat and been leashed.

As you can see, pet attacks by wildlife, though rare, can be a problem for pets, particularly for smaller dogs and for cats. If you have any tips or stories our readers can learn from, I hope you'll take time to share them. It could save a life!

Featured Yorkie photograph by Tnkntx.

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mountainlesli on April 30 at 12:39 PM said:

I lost my cat just this past year...I think that it was a hawk, as it happened during the day, and she never left the area just around my house. I live in the mountains of Northern California on 5 acres of forest, and try to protect my animals, but it is hard to keep a cat inside when they want to lay on the deck in the sun now and then. I thought that she would be okay, since she never "roamed", but wild predators take any opportunity to get their meals...I miss her so much and hope that she didn't suffer long, but I can only imagine how horrible it was.
Kelly on May 3 at 11:46 AM said:

People laugh at me when I tell them my little 4.5# yorkie/min pin is "potty box" trained inside because we have hawks & falcons in the neighborhood. They think it's not something that really happens. Well I'm not letting my baby girl be the one that proves them wrong. Thank you for the info regarding the clothing & I completely forgot about owls.... we have those lurking around also.:-)
Joanne Curtis on June 6 at 9:22 PM said:

Wow! First I didn't know about the single coyote trap, that is something. We have mostly coyotes in our area of Arizona. We do not have many cats strolling around outdoors. If we do, it is usually a wild cat and they don't seem to be around too long. I think here in Arizona, the feline are house pets. Good Blog
Miss Edee on July 4 at 10:31 PM said:

Never thought of the clothing! I live in an area with lots of 4-legged wildlife, but my yard is fenced. I do, however, worry about the hawks, bald eagles, and owls. Guess now I have a *real* excuse for putting my girl in a pink shirt and my boy in his bright blue tank top!
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