Watching Your Dog Like a Hawk: The Food Chain in Your Front Yard


Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)

Image by Tilton Lane via FlickrThe food chain that happens within seconds within your own yard, can be alarming.

Our son was just home from college and was warmly greeted by us and our dog–a wire-haired dachshund named Woody.  Our son has always been Woody’s hero, now in more ways than one. He eagerly picked up his dog and ruffled his wavy wheaton hair.

“Hey, did you guys know that Woody has a big cut on his back?”

“A cut?” you responded, amazed.  For ten years, Woody has led such a gentle life, going from strolling around the block to either dog bed, people bed, or to various laps around the house.  Then maybe the occasional amble outside in our small fenced-in courtyard in order to lay out in the sun, or to take care of business.  In the fall, there’s the annual cartoon-like chipmunk chase–thankfully, never catching one, just stretching his legs.

When you inspected your pet, you were astounded to see a triangular-shaped puncture wound next to his shoulder blade.  Cradling him, you then checked every room in the house to see if any sharp objects could possibly have fallen.

Meanwhile your son got ready to go out for a run in the neighborhood, and opened the front door.

“Don’t let Woody out,” he warned.  “There’s a hawk in the courtyard.”

You have seen hawks for years, circling the street from a high vantage point.   Lurking up in the pinetops is one thing, but stalking from a few feet off of the ground in the low limbs of our flowering crepe myrtle, is another.  There was not enough room to possibly swoop down and pick up prey, yet our miniature dog had been attacked none-the-less.

Your husband called the vet.  She ruled out a snake bite and confirmed that this was a raptor attack, and said that the wound could be from a beak, or from a talon grab.  Later, you found a small chunk of dog fur on the floor that had a tiny perfect hole in the center, the size of a pencil tip–talon or tip of the beak?

Woody’s time outside has now been limited to mere seconds as you hover over him.  “Maybe we should also use a leash, just in case,” your husband suggested.  You have heard on the news about red-tailed hawks attacking small pets for years; one dachshund was saved when the owner pulled him back down to earth with the leash.

This excerpt is from Safety Considerations from Small Dog Caretakers, on Facebook:

According to the Audubon Society encyclopedia of North American birds, “after catching the victim, which eagles and virtually all hawks kill with the grasping feet and talons, they either hold their prey on the ground and eat it or carry it in the talons or in the bill (if it is light enough to be carried) to a perch above the ground.” Unfortunately, that means that the weight-carrying capacity of individual raptors may not be important, as they don’t have to carry off their prey to be lethal. Urban Legends Reference Pages by Barbara and David P. Mikkelson, make quite an issue of whether stories of small dogs being carried off by birds of prey are true or not, and claim they are not true (though with scarce proof), though they do admit that certain owls “have no trouble taking off with a hare in their talons, so a small dog is well within their capabilities.” Personally, I don’t care if it’s true whether the bird actually carries off my dachshund or not, the fact that they can and will kill it is enough for me!

Mini dachshunds usually weigh around 7 to 11 pounds, with many smaller and larger versions. In questioning the validity of raptors being able to attack and/or carry off our dachshunds as prey, let’s consider weights of common prey of the above-listed raptors.

Just when we thought the coyote population was under control, we now have new concerns.  Meanwhile, we watch our tiny dog, like a hawk.

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About reelingintheyears.wordpress.com

A freelance writer who revels in the 1970's...and today. Thoughts on being a baby baby boomer and empty nester. Welcome to the Saturday evening porch.
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3 Responses to Watching Your Dog Like a Hawk: The Food Chain in Your Front Yard

  1. Oh my gosh! Poor Woody! Who’d have thunk it, though? Makes me afraid for my cats, as I’ve seen a hawk in our backyard. Fortunately, while they act like they want to play outside all day, they usually just spent five minutes slinking along the side of the house. I’m glad your dog is okay. Good, informative post!

  2. Glad you’re watching your cats’ back(s). Meanwhile, I’ve been thinking about your limoncello every single day–YUM…and so exciting! I’m going now to read your most recent post about it!

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