Expert: It's possible for large birds to pick up small pets

- We know coyotes can cause a serious threat to small pets.  But there's another apparent danger, and this one comes from the sky.

When Holly Guth let her Chihuahua Pokey out in her back yard to go to the bathroom a few weeks ago in Edina, something unexpected happened.

“I saw a white flash. At first my brain didn't register. I thought it was a bird or an eagle or a hawk because it happened so quickly."

It turned out to be a coyote that snatched Pokey and jumped over the fence with it. But her fears of a winged attack on her precious pet weren't entirely off base.

While coyote attacks on small pets are fairly common in Minnesota, they aren't the only wild animals roaming around in the suburbs.  Animal control experts say it’s possible for big birds of prey like bald eagles to carry a small dog or cat back to their nest for an easy meal.

“An eagle could pick up a small pet, just not likely,” Dr. Julia Ponder from the Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota said. “They don't like being around people. They don't like hunting around people."

Ponder said even though video from an eagle cam in central Minnesota shows a bald eagle feeding its chicks a cat carcass, no one knows if the eagle killed it or picked it up as road kill.

She said other birds like great horned owls are a bigger threat to small pets.

“If I had a small dog or a small cat I would be more worried about a great horned owl,” Ponder said. “They are more likely to take a small animal. They are called ‘tigers of the sky’ for a reason."

But regardless of which animal is the danger, Guth said it’s one more reason not to leave your pets outside alone.

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