In Devon, UK, a woman reported that her chihuahua had been snatched from her backyard and the culprit was a seagull. Even though the owner, Becca Hill, was unable to provide photos or videos to support her claim, an avian expert states that large gulls have been known to ambush small mammals within the area, and even flying off with them for short distances, and those include small pets like dogs, writes Live Science, a digital science news website.
However, even though these so-called attacks are possible, Viola Ross-Smith, a science communicator working with the British Trust for Ornithology, states that these are very rare. "Like this time, the reports usually do not come with photographic evidence and are covered quite sensationally in the media, so it's hard to know exactly what happened," she explains.
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As told by Hill, the event happened in Devon at 12:30 p.m. where — without warning — the seagull struck her brown-and-white male chihuahua named Gizmo. She explains that Gizmo was safe and playing in the garden, while her partner hung out the washing nearby. Suddenly, a seagull swooped down and picked her pet with its beak — and just like that, 4-year-old Gizmo was gone. His owners could only helplessly watch as the bird carried the dog away, writes Live Science.
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In the UK, most seagulls found in the area are measured from 25 inches long up to 25 inches long. There are also only two types of seagulls within the area, herring gulls (Larus argentatus) and lesser black-backed gulls (Larus fuscus). For lesser black-backed gulls, they usually have a wingspan of 59 inches, while herring gulls have a wingspan of 58 inches, reports the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
The organization also says that both gull species are omnivores and tend to eat whatever they can find as their diet consists of fish, invertebrates, vegetables, and sometimes, near-chihuahua-sized mammals like rats, moles, and even small rabbits.
Ross-Smith says that albeit chihuahuas generally weigh no more than 3 kg or 6lbs, their miniature counterparts can be lighter — making them about the same size that seagulls prey upon.
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In the end, Hill explains that "it is unknown if Gizmo may have been dropped," but Ross-Smith added that it is important to remember that these attacks are uncommon since gulls do not pose a threat to small pets or children, but it doesn't necessarily mean that they're impossible. "Gulls don't just randomly attack people or other animals. They will defend their nest and chicks if a person or animal comes too close — the distance varies from nest to nest, and throughout the breeding season — but even in those cases, they usually just swoop and call," she explains, via Live Science.