We get a lot of questions about that here at The Outdoor Campus. There are owls and hawks all over the place – in town and out of town – but we don’t see them very often. So when we do, it can cause alarm, especially if our pets are out in the yard.
Julie DeJong, animal control supervisor for Sioux Falls, said larger owls may try to pick up a cat, but “cats usually outweigh them and the mission is unsuccessful. If you are concerned about your pets being outside while there are owls or hawks around, keep them inside or keep them near you while you are outside.”
Owls hunt at night and have excellent eye sight. “Just keeping your pets indoors at night could keep them safer,” she said.
If an owl or hawk did steal and eat a person’s pet, there really isn’t
anything animal control or South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks can do to help the owner. “Owls, hawks, and eagles are all protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which is a federal agreement with Canada and Mexico. These birds cannot be killed or harmed, and their nests cannot be destroyed without a permit from the US Fish and Wildlife Service,” she said.
Keeping owls and hawks out of the yard is nearly impossible, but there are some ways to discourage them from hanging around. “The best and most effective ways are to take away the food source,” DeJong said. “Often these predators are lured to your yard by the birds at your bird feeder. Removing the bird feeder will eliminate that food source.”
DeJong also said some frightening items may work for a while if homeowners vary them. Put up a scarecrow or fake owl to scare away the predators, but move them often. Remove perching locations like dead branches, fence tops and other places the raptors sit. Loud noises will help, but probably not make for good neighbors. Also, an increase in human activity can keep predator birds out of backyards.