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Name: Laurie J.
Status: other
Age: 40s
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: Saturday, August 31, 2002



Question:
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?


Replies:
Laurie,

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 fear response!

Steve Sample
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.
Assistant Director
Science Education
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.

J. Elliott


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