Owl and Dog Safety
Name: Laurie J.
Date: Saturday, August 31, 2002
I live in Altamonte Springs FL, just outside of Orlando.
I have a fifteen pound dog that I walk at night. Last night I had an
owl swoop overhead and land on the power lines. I was fascinated and
wanted to watch it for a while, but was afraid it would attack my dog.
I have no idea which types of owl it was. Is there really a concern for
my dog, or can I safely owl watch with my dog?
If your dog is very small and alone in the hunting areas of a Great
Horned Owl (found in Florida), there may be reason for concern. Great
Horned Owls' favorite food is the skunk, to give you an idea of the size
of some of their prey. Small dogs have been documented to have been targets
to these owls. The only other large owl is the Barred Owl, but
it only preys on small mammals and such.
However, your presence will completely deter any thought of attack
otherwise. Medium to large dogs have little to fear.
What you probably witnessed was the curiosity of a juvenile Great Horned
Owl (I'm assuming your owl was about the size of a cat) trying to learn
and responding to sounds that may be food sources. This is a common
behavior for about this time of year (late summer), these young individuals are on
their own; not by choice.
I could be completely incorrect for there are several other owl species
in Florida that may have just been startled. It may have been a simple
La Grange, Illinois
One cannot ever be completely sure what a wild animal might do, but I know of
no owl that could handle a fifteen pound dog...maybe a fifteen pound mouse
would be tempting...but still the owl would have little chance for success.
Peter Faletra Ph.D.
Office of Science
Department of Energy
Great horned owls are large and aggressive predators of small mammals, very
small dogs certainly would be vulnerable but I do not think a 15 pound dog
would be at risk. If it was any of the smaller owls, like barred, I do not
think there would be any risk at all.
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Update: June 2012