Keep Your Pets Safe from Wildlife

by DFS-Pet-Blog on August 27, 2010

There's WHAT out there?

There's WHAT out there?

Awhile back on the Drs. Foster and Smith Facebook page, Melissa posted photos of a bear (plus three cubs!) in her backyard. At my house, we regularly lose bird feeders to the bears if we forget to take the tempting seed, suet or nectar indoors at night. And we have lots more “neighbors” besides bears around here, including wolves, coyotes, and even mountain lions – that is, wildlife that could potentially consider my 16 lb dog snack-sized!

While some attacks on dogs happen while hunting, there are also many incidences of dogs and cats being hurt or killed right in their owners’ backyards, even in urban areas. Coyotes are well known for venturing into residential areas to prey upon pets.

Here are some precautions to help
keep your pet safe from wildlife.

  • Never feed scavengers, either intentionally or accidentally:
    • Keep garbage inaccessible. Raccoons enjoy a good open garbage can too, and they can carry canine distemper (as can skunks, foxes and coyotes).
    • Clean up any fallen fruit.
    • Keep bird feeders tidy. Birds and rodents are attracted to seed, and predators are attracted to birds and rodents.
    • Don’t feed your pets outside, or leave food out for them.
    • Locate compost away from the house, or in secure containers.
  • Try not to go out between dusk and dawn. If your dog needs a bathroom break at night, keep him close with a shorter leash. At my house, we take out a hand-held spotlight and check the yard and driveway before leaving the porch.
  • One of our feeder casualties, courtesy of a bear.

    One of our feeder casualties, courtesy of a bear.

  • Never leave your dog unattended outdoors.
  • Cats should always stay indoors.
  • If possible, enclose your yard with a fence at least 6 feet high.
  • On walks, consider carrying pepper or “bear” spray.
  • Keep your pet up to date on vaccinations and flea and tick preventives, since wildlife also risks introducing such health problems to your yard as rabies, heartworm disease, tapeworms, and mites.

Don’t allow predatory wildlife to get comfortable with being near humans and our homes! Yell, wave your arms, and even throw things at intruders. This could save not only your pet’s life, but also that wild animal. If a wild animal does not leave or becomes aggressive, report it.

Besides my legitimate worries about coyotes and stray dogs, I have a certain paranoia about eagles, hawks, and owls, all of which we see almost daily around our house. Although Mojito is larger-than-average prey to them, and it makes my husband laugh, I scoop him up whenever one passes overhead!

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Dogs & Wildlife: What To Do When Your Dog Chases Wild Animals - The Fun Times Guide to Dogs
May 9, 2012 at 9:29 pm

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Rosemary August 27, 2010 at 9:21 am

Living in the city, our wildlife is possums, squirrels. rats and of course the birds, including the “Texas telephone pole” (AKA red tailed) hawks. The main thing I have to look out for on our walks are loose dogs, Unfortunately, there is a lot of dog fighting in our area, or people that think it’s “manly” to own a “tough” dog. You never know if they will just bark or try to attack. I started carrying pepper spray after the third time a loose dog attacked mine.

We do go to Colorado accaissionally, however, and keep a close watch on anybody we take with us. My husband’s aunt raises prize-winning dairy goats, and lost 3, including her favorite doe, to a bear this past spring. Even though black bears are a protected species, they have permission from Fish and Wildlife to shoot this one, as it has been killing other people’s livestock, too. There are also mountain lions, and one year they lost all their chickens to a fox. The wolves are not in their area, but the coyotes are.

Beth Zelten August 27, 2010 at 4:01 pm

Oh my Keri, I get where you’re coming from. We live just over the WI border in Menominee, MI and bears, hawks, eagles, etc are always around which makes me nervous when I let my 2 Jack Russells out at night. Thank you for the great tips on keeping them safe. I always worry I’m not doing enough……

Shirl August 27, 2010 at 9:26 pm

I totally agree. I live in Minocqua and had a doxie and took her out in the early morning in the spring only to have her on a leash and an eagle swooping down for the kill. I never in my life knew that I could pick her up and run so fast while yelling at the top of my lungs!!! Luckily I got under the protection of the house but the eagle sat in the tree above for several hours, only moving for distraction. My doxie never wanted to go outside again…..THANKS FOR PIDDLE PADS until the time that she went to live with her brother and sister on a very protected property as she was never comfortable outside of this house ever…..My loss….HER GAIN! She is very happy living with her clan and we see her often, but she loves living and loving with her siblings and with the wonderful family that she is with. Bless them all! Thanks for the great head up article!

Keri K. August 30, 2010 at 10:17 am

Thanks for the comments, everyone! You can’t blame a wild animal for its natural behavior, but when it comes to our pets there has to be a line between them and us.

I really do worry about large birds of prey! What makes it worse is that Mo does too… he has barked and growled at an eagle, when he is usually a very quiet dog. There have also been nights when he has refused to leave the porch, but stares into the dark and growls… those nights are when we go out armed!

Rosemary, my husband and I have always liked goats and thought about keeping a few some day. We have the land now, but would have to install so much fencing to keep them safe that it is still a project a few years out for us.

Mary B September 14, 2010 at 4:26 pm

Hi Keri,

I live in Tennessee, and I have a red tailed hawk killing all the cotton tailed rabbits in the little neighborhood I live in. There is one baby bunny left. He is about as big as a guinea pig. He sits under my neighbors truck, (parked in the grass next to 3 big bushes), all day long, except to go wherever he goes, maybe his hole, for an hour or so. We’ve been feeding him apples and carrots, and recently started feeding him rabbit food pellets. I’ve noticed at dusk he sits in front of my fenced yard, and at about 9:00 pm he comes in my yard to eat the grass and weeds, and I think he stays there all night. Do you know if I can buy or make some kind of hideout for him, so when I let my chihuahua’s out he has a safe place to run besides under the fence and into the street? And, as the weather gets colder, I’m worried he will freeze to death, if he makes it that long without the hawk getting him. Do you or anyone else have any suggestions? I know I’m being bad by feeding the bunnies, but this little guy is the only one left and I’m trying to keep him going. He is so cute and sweet. If I could, I post a pic, but he’s pretty shy…i.e…terrified of everything. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Keri K. September 15, 2010 at 4:41 pm

Hi Mary! As you already know, it’s rarely a good idea to interfere with nature. Unfortunately, lending support to wild animals tends to bring them into contact with as many dangers as we’re trying to save them from. That said, I know exactly how you feel!

Your best bet (and the bunny’s, too) is to make your yard a generally rabbit-friendly place. I found a few links on how to do it: (with a paragraph on how to build an inviting brush pile)

Even with assistance, a wild rabbit lives a tough life — their lifespan is estimated to be less than three years. But if you are able to make a few changes to your yard, you may be able to observe him (and hopefully his friends and family) for many seasons. Good luck to your bunny!

Mary B September 16, 2010 at 12:59 pm

Thankyou so much Keri!!! I’ll let you know how it goes!!!
Mary (((HUGS)))

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