Bird of prey looming in University City; pet owners concerned

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UNIVERSITY CITY, MO (KTVI) - Residents in one urban core neighborhood are on high alert for a bird of prey terrorizing small pets.

Carol Jackson says there's a hawk living on her University City street on the 7300 block of Melrose. It lurks high in the trees, but she's seen it get a little too close while her tiny dog plays in the backyard.

“Out of nowhere, something swooped down over my head, made a circle, came from nowhere, and the next swoop almost touched my dog,” Jackson said.

She had a similar experience around this same time last year.

“Some big type bird; I had to hit with a stick so it wouldn't attack my dog,” she said.

Then she says the bird of prey actually picked up a cat down the street.

“I saw something swoop down and pick up the cat and in the distance heard the cat screaming,” said Jackson.

Trina Whitener with the World Bird Sanctuary told Fox 2 News the clawed culprits are most likely either a Red Tail Hawk or Great Horned Owl. She has some reassuring words for pet owners.

“The instances of owls or hawks like our Red Tailed Hawk over here catching and killing people's animals are pretty few and far between,” Whitener said.

For one, hawks and owls can only carry away half their body weight and they weigh less than three pounds.

“A smaller prey animal, that's what they usually go after: a mouse, a squirrel, they'll grab that,” she said.

Whitener says the birds may become aggressive toward pets this time of year not because they're on the hunt but because they're protecting a nest.

“They don't want to lose their babies to your cat or your dog so they will dive or swoop and try to drive that predator away,” Whitener said.

Jackson posted a warning to her neighbors on social media. She just wants people to be aware.

“Not trying to scare anyone, but don't leave your pets outside unattended,” she said.