Should we assume wild critters are the only animals on a predators menu? How safe are our small pets?

Monday mornings no longer bring that feeling of returning to work for the week, the only thoughts I have is the beginning of another week. The start of the week is much better than the end, weekends no longer hold a place in my thoughts as a respite from the daily toil of making a living. Instead on nice mornings, I will be on the patio overlooking the slough which is the center and starting point of my day. Something new and unique happens without fail every day no matter what the climate is like. True to form two days ago I was in the writers’ chair facing the large window to the world outside. A Pecan Tree is framed in the window making it appear as if it is a moving photograph, a video may be a better way to describe it. Swaying in the breeze the 50 footer (15.24 meters) moves gracefully, as the wind increases it’s movements remind me of a teenager on a rollercoaster. Dipping to the pleasure of the wind I marvel at how strong the main branches are. Flexing to what I believe is on the verge of breaking the tree stands defiant in face of the gale.

red tailed
There she is, apex predator, the Red Tailed Hawk.

Red squirrels have made a permanent home in the top branches, they build amazingly strong nests. Living 20 feet (6.10 meters) below them is the resident Barn Owl in a nesting box I built several years ago, my neighbor placed it in the tree. The Owls have had to run the squirrels out of their box several times, while the furry intruders run in and out of their home, the bird sits at a distance watching them. When that happens I wonder why the Raptor doesn’t go after them but I have seen other birds of prey display the same characteristics.

A Red Tailed Hawk is another visitor to the tree top from the size of it I surmise it is a female Hawk. She has been around for years nesting until two years ago next to an old snag across the road. She and her mate would take turns perching on the top of the dead tree shadowing my neighbors chicken coop and a few outbuildings. Being a liability the rancher cut the tall old stump down leaving it lay where it fell. Driving the Hawks off I don’t know where their nest is now however they retained the Pecan Tree as a roosting place.

I saw her land on a branch just below the roofline of my neighbors’ house, normally she perches higher. This time it appeared she had an agenda as her head pivoted around and side to side I knew she was on the hunt. Squirrels were running wild after being in their nest during the past week due to the rain they seemed to be enjoying the sun. Small birds were occupying the lower branches chirping and hopping around with the predatory bird watching. The small animals ignored the Hawk it may be too difficult for the bird to swoop in on them among the branches they were skittering around in. She did, however, notice something in the distance, it wasn’t just me that was under her observant eyes suddenly she took flight.

They are numerous in the tree.

She flew to the East from the tree away from the river flying low she circled around my house until suddenly I saw her out the window to my left. As a dive bomber, she dove like a rocket towards the ground talons outstretched it was obvious a meal was in her eye. I stood up in time to see her crash into the fence with a small Rabbit running frantically towards the safety of the den. The Hawk missed the target and the bunny left the big bird on the ground shaking the shock of hitting the fence out of her body. Within the hour the Red Tailed Hawk was back in the tree except this time higher up more in her normal spot.

The big tree shades the entire side of the house from the intense summer morning sun, below it is the patio and deck. I messaged my neighbor warning her the Hawk was in the tree suggesting she keep her little dog inside. She lets her Yorkie out on the deck sometimes for an hour seldom longer, the dog weighs less than 5 pounds. Dixie (the dogs’ name) is the size predators like, easily carried away by the big birds. It’s a wonder why the small animal has never been attacked by one of the predators lurking about. One reason may be due to the patio has a cover and is surrounded by brushy trees making an angle of diving impossible, I’m not sure but there has to be a reason.

The Hawk as I stated has been a resident around here for years she would buzz me as I was sitting in the garden on my lawn chair. Diving under the power line and over my head I dismissed it as a mere curiosity after she had done it many times. This was after my neighbors’ house burned to the ground 6 years ago, two homes were destroyed. One of the families had 30 cats, yep it was one of those houses inundated with felines. Most days during that time the Hawk would fly on the wind between 1:00 and 2:00 pm circle the burned-out shell then diving straight down. Her nest was most likely filled with fledglings that needed to be fed, unfortunately, a cat was the daily special. Two ladies were rescuing the cats, neutering them then placing them in homes, I admire compassion on that scale.

The family with the cats had a few years earlier two Chihuahua’s that somehow multiplied to 15, my theory is the others were dumped then they all formed a pack. chasing everything, those small dogs were vicious. People seeing me in the garden would on occasion ask me if there wasn’t something I could do about my small pack of dogs, of course, I had no idea where they belonged. My only clue was they lived in the trees across the road from the lady with the cats. Adding to the disaster of the cats slowly disappearing the small yapping dogs started a population adjustment as well. The decline was obvious to me, Monday there was 15, by Friday there was 12 and it continued until there were no more, none. I’m not going to blame the Red Tailed Hawk for all of the animals’ demise but I am confident they are the perpetrators of many of them. Plenty of other predators live in the area among them are Owls several species including Great Horned, Coyotes many of them, and Foxes.

Great Horned Owl, they can grow to 4 feet tall. (approx. 1 meter)

After the rain when the sun comes out the critters are hungry and on the prowl. Across the river flocks of birds show up diving into the tall grass for the furry small ones exiting their burrows in search of nourishment. Several years ago I wrote a blog describing the overpopulation of Rabbits we were experiencing and how some of the locals felt something had to be done. I would tell them not to despair because in short order the predators would show up, now I am sure they have. The bunny population is noticeably reduced, there are no cats wild or domestic, and a radical decline in the Skunk population is noted.

Rural areas are not the only localities where small animals are taken by large predators. City dwellers are often outraged that a bird of prey had attacked their domestic pet, in fact, a video is online of a lady beating a Hawk with a pillow until it flew off. All animals 10 pounds or less are potential victims. Coyotes and Racoons are capable of killing larger animals but that is another blog.

Precaution is the rule of the day when small pets are in an area frequented by predatory animals, especially large birds. We should not leave them unattended in a backyard or porch it takes just a few seconds for them to become victims. We must assume our pets are being watched sometimes from hundreds of yards away, and often as is the case on this Island they may be just overhead.

I appreciate the time you took to read my blog, please share it and follow me on WordPress. Thanks again.

Jacques Lebec Natural Self-Reliance

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