Aerial predators, especially golden eagles or large hawks, have a fearsome reputation for being able to fly off with their prey. Wildlife biologists contend that attacks on household pets are very rare, but one Washington woman said that is exactly what happened to her seven-pound Shih Tzu late last month. According to KCPQ-TV, Marcia Green was at her 40-acre property in Cashmere when a bird carried off one of her dogs and then later dropped it from a great height. Raptors sometimes intentionally drop prey to stun and kill them, or if the unfortunate animal proves to be too heavy.

Green’s dog did not end up far away. She found the Shih Tzu in one corner of her yard with a punctured lung, broken ribs, and other gruesome injuries. Miraculously, the dog was still alive.

“She was just lying there lifeless,” Green said.

Despite the extent of the animal’s injuries, veterinarians were able to save Green’s dog. Wildlife experts who examined the animal’s wounds concluded that the perpetrator was likely either a golden eagle or large hawk. Unlike bald eagles, retired US Fish and Wildlife biologist Mike Jacobson said that golden eagles are much more likely to target pets.

“There used to be stories about [bald] eagles carrying off babies and little kids, and none of that has ever been documented,” Jacobson said. “They can pick up and carry four or five pounds, maximum, and actually fly off with it. They can lift a little more and hop it along, but they can’t carry it off.”

Golden eagles, on the other hand, have little trouble doing so. As the most commonly-found eagle species in the world, golden eagles have a varied diet that ranges from ground squirrels to deer, pronghorn, and even young wolves or brown bear cubs. Last year, a camera trap in Russia was able to record images of a golden eagle killing a sika deer for the first time.

Despite their strength, there have been very few reports of eagle attacks on pets. Recorded attacks seem to suggest that stray animals, such as cats, are most at risk. Experts say that the primary reason for this is because the birds are wary of humans.

“I’d speculate that is due to eagles being leery of approaching people or foraging in novel areas such as people’s yards,” said USFWS raptor expert Phil Schempf. “Eagles typically are foraging along beaches or riparian areas where it is rare for dogs and cats to be unattended by their owners.”

Now Green rarely lets her dogs out of sight, even on her own property.

“She’s our little miracle dog,” Green told the Associated Press. “I’m just thankful that I heard her barking and then knew to go look for her.”

Image from J. Glover - Atlanta, Georgia on the Wikimedia Commons

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