If you’ve spent any time outside at night this winter season, perhaps grilling, hanging on the back porch, or walking your dog, perhaps you’ve heard the unmistakable sound of owls hooting nearby. While Georgia’s four native year-round species of owl hoot and holler all year long, winter is peak breeding and nesting time for three of them — the barn, barred, and great horned owls. They use their unique calls to find mates, bond with other owls, and mark their own individual territories.

But with urban sprawl and development, we’ve crept farther into the rural areas and into the owls’ territories, putting us all in close proximity to one another. As a matter of fact, if you live in the Greater Metro Atlanta area, it’s not hard to imagine that your house is probably within a square mile of an active owl’s nest. And while it’s great to imagine that we can live so close to such a majestic animal that we can see and hear it in all its natural glory and beauty, we shouldn’t ignore the fact that owls pose a hazard to your outdoor pets, particularly dogs and cats.

Allowing pets to spend time outdoors is good for their health and well-being and provides a convenient opportunity to let them get some exercise, but pet owners should use caution if their pets are left outside unattended and without shelter, especially at night. Because owls are natural birds of prey with incredible hunting instincts, unattended pets — particularly smaller ones – could be at risk for attack or much worse. Larger owls, such as the great horned owl, are large enough to swoop down and carry away small animals when hunting for prey.

Aside from their predatory risk to small livestock and domesticated creatures, owls are largely beneficial and do no harm to people or property, aside from the noise they make. Because owls help to keep other pests such as rodents, snakes, skunks, and insects under control, there is a benefit to having them around your house. That’s where control and safety measures can be taken to reduce the risk to you and your animals.

For more information regarding owls and other predatory birds in Georgia and how to best deal with them on and around your property, it’s recommended that you contact a professional animal services expert regarding the laws and guidelines in your local area.

In the Greater Metro Atlanta area and surrounding North Georgia communities, that means a call to Wild Trappers. While owls are protected in the state of Georgia, one of Wild Trappers’ state-certified animal professionals can inspect your property to identify potential areas of concern and recommend safe and cost-effective abatement and prevention solutions to reduce the risk of owls preying on your small animals and other livestock.