Could birds of prey be killing pets?

BIRDS of prey swooping from the skies of Essex to pluck precious pets from their owners may sound far fetched, but a wildlife group is warning people to be on the lookout.

James Hore

BIRDS of prey swooping from the skies of Essex to pluck precious pets from their owners may sound far fetched, but a wildlife group is warning people to be on the lookout.

Tendring Pets Reunited said they have are concerned about the number of reports they have received about cats mysteriously disappearing from homes next to farmland and fields.

Michael Daniels, from the group, believes an increasing number of buzzards could be responsible for the missing pets across north Essex.

Mr Daniels said the buzzards had returned to the county after 130 years and he believes there are at least six breeding pairs in the Tendring area.

While buzzards have come to his attention recently, he is also warning that foxes and mink are also potential dangers.

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The Holland-on-Sea pensioner said: “This bird of prey usually feeds on rabbits, but our worry is that, especially now approaching nesting time, this predator may not discriminate in its daily fare between wild animals and domestic pets.

“So a kitten or a puppy of small breed, guinea pigs, when the latter are kept outside in open pens, could prove vulnerable to attack.”

Although Mr Daniels does not want to scaremonger, he appealed for people to bring their pets inside at night to avoid heartbreak.

“There is no specific evidence at all, but what we do, is try to give people warning because when we collect this information about lost animals, one is suspicious of what happened to them.

“A lot of people have open space and foxes are probably the biggest threat, then after that mink but we have got buzzards round here and they will take rabbits and if they do that, they could well take someone's pet.”

Mr Daniels and his wife, Pamela, set up Tendring Pets Reunited in memory of their daughter, Caroline, who died in 2004 when she was 43.

They keep a database and are in touch with various wildlife groups in the area, so when someone reports a pet missing, they are able to check whether anyone has taken in a pet.

A spokesman for the RSPB said: “It would be fairly unusual because buzzards tend to like things that are dead - they quite like earth worms for example.

“They will take live prey such as rabbits if they get the chance, but there is no chance of them getting hold of a dog unless it is the size of a chihuahua.

“There are stories of birds of prey taking pets, but it is very, very uncommon and it would be far more likely to be a fox or cat than to be a buzzard.

“You can never say never, but the chances of one coming down into a garden are very, very slim.”

Anyone in the Tendring area who has lost a pet can get in contact with Mr and Mrs Daniels on 01255 814172.