Becca Hill’s partner was in the yard of their home in the British town of Paignton, hanging the laundry to dry. Gizmo, their tiny brown and white miniature chihuahua, was with him — until suddenly he wasn’t.
A seagull dove out of the sky and snatched the brown and white pup on Sunday, Hill told DevonLive.com. Her partner tried to grab Gizmo as the gull flew away, she said, but he couldn’t reach the dog.
“It carried Gizmo a fair way as we couldn’t see him anymore,” Hill told Devon Live. “I have no idea if he was dropped or where he is now.”
The 4-year-old dog was only 4.4 pounds, according to the BBC.
Hill originally posted a plea for help locating Gizmo on Facebook but took it down because people were trolling her, posting comments that cast doubt on her claim, according to a local dog search team, UAV Lost Dog Search & Rescue. In lieu of Hill’s post, UAV was taking the brunt of Facebook users’ incredulity Monday night.
Though possible, the suspected attack would certainly be a rare occurrence. Seagulls do not have talons, so it would be challenging to pull off such a feat, Kevin McGowan of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology said in an email, calling the incident “very unlikely,” though he was not there to witness the event.
“Not only would it be hard to lift off with that much weight,” McGowan told The Washington Post, “but there would be no possible way to get it to a stable position under the weight-bearing portion of the wings.”
On the other hand, Peter Rock, an ornithologist who studies seagulls in Britain, told the BBC that Hill’s story doesn’t surprise him at all. He said gulls are increasingly large and could absolutely snatch a small animal from a garden.
“If you have a very tiny little dog, I suggest you don’t let it run around in your back garden,” Rock told BBC Radio 4. “It may well become a meal.”
The UAV Lost Dog Search & Rescue Facebook page published a picture of Gizmo asking those in the area to stay aware and look for the dog.
“Please check your gardens and roofs,” the post said.
Birds of prey have a reputation for snatching dogs from yards. In 2016, a hawk in North Carolina reportedly flew away with a 15-year-old Chihuahua before dropping her and killing her. A swan in Dublin attacked and killed a cocker spaniel in June, according to the Irish Times.
For pet owners, the fear of a beloved pet being picked up by a low-flying bird is real — so real, there’s a market for protective gear for small dogs that claims to prevent an attack.