You may not expect pet predators in suburban neighborhoods, but wildlife can dwell in a greenbelt or a few acres of undeveloped land. So don’t be complacent about protecting your smallest, most vulnerable pets when they’re outdoors. Here’s what you need to know about pet predators.
Wildlife predators in your neighborhood
Wildlife is amazingly resilient and adaptable. Coyotes, foxes, bobcats, raccoons, possums, hawks, owls and snakes can make a home in a few acres of woods, even with a thriving human community surrounding them. Human encroachment on these animals’ natural habitat brings accessible food sources right to them. Some wildlife will ignore your pets, but others won’t.
The two most common pet predators are coyotes and raptor birds. Coyotes are pack animals with a keen sense of smell. They may initially be attracted to your home if you leave food scraps in outside garbage or pet food bowls outdoors. You may even attract them when you’re grilling meat. Raptor birds include eagles, hawks and owls. Eagles are more of a concern in very rural areas, but hawks and especially owls can inhabit populated suburbs.
Rare, but be aware
Wildlife preying on domestic animals is rare, but under the right circumstances, it can happen.
Raptor birds such as barn owls, great horned owls (also known as hoot owls), hawks, and eagles may attack a small pet weighing between 4 and 10 pounds. Raptors prefer smaller prey, however, such as rabbits, rodents and snakes, and will carry them off.
Likewise, coyotes will attack only animals considerably smaller than themselves. That means cats and small dogs under 15 pounds are vulnerable.
Although exceedingly rare in suburban or even some rural areas, bobcats and mountain lions are powerful and capable of carrying off dogs, even those larger than themselves.
Snakes don’t kill and consume domestic animals, but they will bite them if your pet gets too close and the snake feels threatened.
How to protect your pet
The simplest, most effective protection for your small pet is your presence when they are outside.
Owls and coyotes primarily hunt for prey at night. Therefore, limit the time your pet spends outside unattended after dark. Remember that only large owls could conceivably prey on your pet.
Coyotes are also active at night; you sometimes hear a pack of them howling and yapping in the woods once the sun goes down. If you’ve heard them, be wary of leaving your small pet outside alone, and carry a flashlight if you walk your dog after dark. Coyotes can climb some fences, so unless your fence is smooth and more than seven feet tall, it is no guarantee of protection.
Hawks are daytime hunters. You may hear their screeching call overhead or see them swooping through the air or perched atop a tree or telephone pole. If so, pay attention to your small pet when it’s outdoors.
Keep in mind that outdoor garbage cans and pet bowls can provide a delightful buffet for woodland creatures, so move them inside to avoid attracting pet predators to your property.
Related – Removing Wild Animals from Your Home