ALBANY, GA (WALB) – To most of us they are feisty, flying creatures that feast on squirrels, rabbits, and mice.
But birds of prey like hawks and owls could also pose a danger to small animal pets.
While it's rare, it has happened before. Across the country cases of a raptors swooping, grabbing, and then flying off with a small dog have been reported.
An Albany family believes a hawk caused the death of their Chihuahua and DNR officials say it's a good reason to keep an extra eye on your pet.
Little Gabby is about as tiny of a pooch you will find. The little Yorkie can hold her own with the big dogs. But it's a threat from above that has her owners concerned.
"We've got a three or four pound Yorkie. It's mainly fur. But I want folks need to be aware there may be some predators around," said Dr. John Inman.
A few months ago he found his family's pet Chihuahua, Jingles, dead on the street.
At first he thought she was hit by a car, but her injuries indicated it was something much different.
"Just looking at her, she had a little blood coming out of the nostril and out of the ear itself. It was like she was grabbed. No markings on the teeth, the mouth. Nothing was hit," he said.
DNR Wildlife Biologist Julie Robbins says, "It's very rare, but occasionally we will get reports of raptors that have tried to attack small animals. Typically you're talking about animals that weigh less than 3 pounds. So very small dogs and very small cats."
Robbins says she's only heard of one report in the area of a hawk grabbing and then dropping a small dog to the ground. But there is a reason as to why this can happen.
"Potentially, it could be a case of mistaken identity where a raptor would pick up a small animal then determine it's not its common prey source and release that animal," she says.
Red-tailed Hawks and Great Horned Owls are common in southwest Georgia. And Inman says plenty of them are around his northwest Albany neighborhood making their presence known.
"We've had 2 neighbors that I'm aware of that have had or witnessed hawks being aggressive while they were out playing with their small dogs or swooping at a toy," he said.
For now it's all about keeping an eye on his little pup so the big birds of prey aren't keeping an eye on her.
DNR officials say it's a good idea to keep you small dog on a leash while outdoors. Hawks and owls are federally protected birds.
However, if you see one attacking your pet, it's advised to make loud noises and run towards the bird to scare it away.
This is also nesting season for hawks, so aggressive activity is common as the birds protect their nests.