While walking your shih tzu you see a snake, and your dog is determined to eat the reptile for lunch. You finally convince them to turn around, and then you notice an eagle soaring overhead. You begin to wonder if your area’s wildlife is a threat to your precious pooch. Our team at Burlington Veterinary Clinic wants to educate you on these wild animals. We recommend precautions you should take to protect your pet.

Are snakes a threat to my pet?

Most snakes will not bother humans or pets unless they feel threatened, but will strike out if provoked. A venomous snake bite can be fatal for your pet. Two venomous snake species inhabit Connecticut, both classified as pit vipers, and identified by their thick, fat bodies, vertical pupils, triangular heads, and facial pits between their eyes and nostrils.

  • Timber rattlesnake — Rattlesnakes are aptly named because of the rattle at the tip of their tail that is made of hollow keratin and causes a distinct noise when the snake vibrates the tail. Their hemotoxic venom causes excessive bleeding and tissue damage, and skin grafts and limb amputation are sometimes required.
  • Copperhead Copperheads have hourglass-shaped bands down their body, and will imitate the rattlesnake by vibrating their tail when provoked. Their venom is also hemotoxic.

To prevent your pet from a snake bite, follow these few guidelines:

  • Keep your dog leashed at all times and monitor the objects they investigate.
  • Do not allow them to stick their heads under heavy brush or in holes.
  • Keep cats indoors.
  • If your pet is bitten, take them to the veterinary hospital immediately. 

Are coyotes a threat to my pet?

As urban areas invade their natural habitats, coyotes are becoming more prevalent in neighborhoods. Coyotes seldom attack cats and dogs, but a few safety measures will help keep your pets secure.

  • Never intentionally feed a coyote. They have a natural instinct to avoid humans, and feeding them will make them feel less inclined to stay away.
  • Do not feed your pets outside. The food and dirty bowls will attract the coyotes, who will mark your yard as a food source.
  • Remove dirty grills and compost piles that could attract coyotes.
  • Do not allow your pets outside alone.
  • Do not walk your pet at night. If that is unavoidable, take a flashlight.
  • Install a fence. To keep coyotes out, the fence should be six feet high and extend six inches underground. You can also install a coyote roller to prevent them from climbing over your fence.

Be aware that coyotes are protective moms who give birth in April and are therefore more aggressive from April to August. If your pet is attacked by a coyote, bring them to our Burlington Veterinary Clinic immediately.

Are bears a threat to my pet?

Like coyotes, bears are now seen more frequently in urban settings. Bears typically leave pets alone, but take these few steps to keep the bears from frequenting your yard.

  • Never feed your pet outside. Like coyotes, they will be drawn to the food smell.
  • Take your garbage inside at night or invest in a bear-resistant container.
  • Clean your grill thoroughly with bleach or ammonia between uses.
  • Enclose your compost. 

If you do come in contact with a bear, making yourself as large as possible, yelling loudly, and clapping your hands should scare the bear away. Never, never run. If your pet is injured by a bear, they will need immediate veterinary care.

Are birds of prey a threat to my pet?

Eagles, hawks, owls, osprey, falcons, and kites are classified as birds of prey. These birds cannot carry anything that weighs more than them, so attacks on pets are rare. When pets have been victims of prey birds, they typically have been dropped after a few feet and have sustained only mild bruises and scrapes. Still, protect your pet from these birds by following a few guidelines.

  • Never leave your pet alone outside.
  • String reflective tape in your yard.
  • Hang shiny pie tins in your trees.
  • Use noise makers that produce loud booms.

If a bird of prey attacks your pet, examine them closely, and seek immediate veterinary attention if they have sustained any puncture wounds, or if they were dropped from a significant height. They may be suffering from internal damage that is not obvious.

Most wild animals are content to mind their own business and allow you and your pet to do the same. By taking a few precautions to respect these animals, while still showing good judgement, you can avoid any unfortunate occurrences. Do not hesitate to contact Burlington Veterinary Clinic’s Fear Free team if your pet has an unlucky wildlife encounter.