Yorkshire terrier survives being snatched, carried across valley, dropped by crowned eagle

Cowie’s Hill resident Michael Blake with his Yorkshire terrier, Delphi, that survived being snatched by a crowned eagle. Picture: Supplied

Cowie’s Hill resident Michael Blake with his Yorkshire terrier, Delphi, that survived being snatched by a crowned eagle. Picture: Supplied

Published Aug 22, 2020


Durban - “A perfect storm of events.”

That’s how pet owner Michael Blake described how his 5-year-old Yorkshire terrier Delphi survived being picked up on Tuesday by a crowned eagle, carried across a valley and dropped.

The Cowie’s Hill resident said with bad weather that day, a garden gate had been blown open which saw their two Yorkshire terriers getting out of the garden and into the nature reserve below their property.

“Both dogs got out into the area below our house. My wife and I were having tea and my personal assistant sent me a WhatsApp about a Yorkie being taken by an eagle, which was circulating on social media.

“It suddenly dawned on me that our dogs were not around and I noticed one of the gates was open,” said Blake.

Delphi had been caught by a hunting crowned eagle and, according to Blake, she was carried across the valley before being dropped.

Blair Atholl vet Dr Grant Emmerich and his wife Helen were alerted by Helen’s parents, Bill and Bess Scadden, that a small injured dog had been found on their neighbour’s property, also in Cowie’s Hill. The couple rushed the injured dog to the clinic.

As practice manager at Blair Atholl Veterinary Clinic, in Westville North, Helen put the incident of the injured dog on her WhatsApp groups to try to find the owner.

“Within 15 minutes we’d found the owner. The dog was in shock and couldn’t move, but was lucky to be alive,” she said.

Meanwhile her husband,had already started treating Delphi for emergency injuries, which included puncture wounds from the eagle’s talons and possible head trauma from the fall.

“By the time the owner got to us, we’d taken X-rays and put Delphi on a drip. She needed immediate treatment, she had severe concussion from being dropped from such a height and a non-depressive fracture at the base of the skull,” Emmerich said, adding that once Delphi had been stabilised, he contacted Westville Veterinary Hospital and the dog was moved there for specialist treatment.

“She’s making a remarkable recovery,” said Emmerich.

“With regard to the crowned eagle, we know there are two breeding pairs in the area. We had 15 cases of pets being attacked last year and it’s normally around this time of year, which is fledgling time.

“Nine out of ten times, it’s a case of mistaken identity as a small dog or cat can look just like a dassie from the eagle’s view,” he added, highlighting there would also be an attrition rate of the eagles, which can just as easily be injured by a dog or cat when hunting.

Emmerich added that a reflective or brightly coloured jacket on a pet would deter an eagle attack.

Meanwhile, Blake said Delphi was doing well and they hoped she would make a full recovery.

With the story being widely shared on social media, Blake emphasised that he did not want the incident sensationalised and did not blame the eagle, saying it could well have been a young eagle being taught how to hunt by its parents, which could be why Delphi had been dropped.

“Although she would definitely have wriggled to get away.

“Living where we do, we’re very aware of the danger of eagles, but we’ve had Yorkies for 15 years and this is the first time something like this has happened - and I hope the last time.

“We just want Delphi back and well,” said Blake.

The Centre for Rehabilitation of Wildlife (Crow) operations director Clint Halkett-Siddall said the crowned eagle was a protected species.

“We try to educate the public on what they can do to avoid conflict between pets and wildlife. As an urban population where there is wildlife around, the animals are here to stay and we have to adapt our lives to co-exist,” said Halkett-Siddall.

They also play a vital role in that if they disappeared, urban environments would soon be overrun by animals such as rats and mice

This month, a crowned eagle had to be euthanised at Crow after being found on the roof of a Malvern home, with three pellets having gone through her body, including one through her spine, resulting in a paralysis.

There are fewer than 1000 crowned eagles left in South Africa and they fall under the TOPS (threatened or protected species) wildlife species category.

The Independent on Saturday